Who’s the Boss?

15 Feb

I think that is the main question I have had over the past few months working at American Ballet Theatre this fall: Who’s the boss? And most importantly, how do you be the boss? This comes as I am approaching the first anniversary of starting my own dance company, Shades Dance Theater, and as of today boss. I am the Founder, Artistic Director, and Executive Director…and because we are so small, I serve as the chair for everything. So, while I have a great board, I am the one pushing this “baby” up and out, and into the world. This is what landed me at American Ballet Theatre in the Executive Office. I wanted to observe what it took to run an organization such as ABT. It was important to me to understand that:

1.) I did not know it all, and I was going to make mistakes as I embarked on this new journey.

2.) That if I was going to learn, I needed to do it from the best. In this case, one of the best, American Ballet Theatre.

One of the things that I wanted to learn about is how to interact with a board, how to keep them engaged, and, as a nonprofit founder, how do I get them to do what I want? One of the first things I learned in the Executive Office was that everything is based off relationships. That was often the key to success. I learned this from observing Kara Medoff Barnett, the Executive Director of ABT. She not only commanded respect, but she is also an overall great person. This reflected in how she spoke to and about others. She would have meetings and phone calls with people just because she needed to plant the seed between ABT and a donor or corporation. She took the time to develop genuine relationships, which proved to make things a lot easier for her. This is something that I have been able to apply to my company and has allowed me to get better at fostering relationships with individuals and organizations that can help sustain it.

When it comes down to the board, I was able to learn that proper communication and planning are key. The board expects that you will lead, so you need to do just that. Sometimes that means you have to ask a challenging question or introduce an unpopular decision. This is something that I, in the beginning, struggled with.

Lastly one of the major takeaways from this internship had to be the connections. Being able to have small conversations with Executive and Artistic Leadership changed the game for me as the leader of my organization. Being able to be connected with great people such as Kara Medoff Barnett is priceless.

Cameron Terry

Executive Office Intern

Fall 2021

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