New President, New Agenda for the Kennedy Center

The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Deborah Rutter will be the Kennedy Center’s third president. This is really interesting because she’s coming from a very successful run as the head of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; she has an MBA; and according to the article in the Washington Post, she’s being hired as much for her management skills as her expertise in the arts.

The Kennedy Center is an interesting organization to me because it’s separated in so many ways from all of the pressures that most organizations feel: the need to sell anything or raise any money, or really produce what I would consider to be tangible results of any kind. On the other hand, it’s held accountable for a much more ambiguous set of goals that many other organizations hardly ever have to think about. For example, most organizations don’t have to worry about whether the president of the United States feels that he or she is being represented fairly and positively by your work. It raises the idea of organizational politics to a whole different level than just about any other arts organization or ticket-selling organization faces.

There was a really interesting quote in the Washington Post piece from Michael M. Kaiser, the outgoing president of the Kennedy Center. He says that while the Kennedy Center “can do anything it wants, it cannot do everything it wants.” The really fascinating question facing somebody who runs this organization is what is the thing, or small group of things, that are most important for the Kennedy Center to deliver, and how successful will he or she be at delivering it?

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