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  • Writer's pictureKeith Jeffrey

The Seven States of a Working Class Cultural Professional's Life

State 5: My God! The Establishment!

I’ve talked a lot about how social capital affects working class cultural professionals but there is one aspect I have yet to explore. The Establishment.

Not Peter Cook’s club of the Sixties but those people who wield power and influence where you live.

Being working class it will be very unusual to know anybody of influence or position yet as you develop your cultural career you begin to bump into (and against) people with types of power and influence you never knew existed.

I’m not suggesting there’s some sort of masonic cabal set up to thwart your every move, this is simply about understanding how things actually work.

When you are leading a programme or organisation you will be advised to get networking.

And not just with fellow professionals.

Your Board will suggest a bunch of names they believe with whom it’s important to make a favourable impression.

Lord Lieutenants, local politicians, business people, senior Voluntary Sector leaders.

Some will be upstarts like you, others will be incredibly posh, hardly any will understand what is you do let alone value it. All of them will carry a type of weight and authority you have never encountered before, the mechanics of which can take years to understand.

They will see your work as charity and as they also want to do good they might be interested in helping as it could benefit the people they are interested in.

This is influencing and it’s an important line of work for you. It can feel as if it’s a waste of your time. I’ve hobnobbed with all sorts of people from Royalty to the Head of the local Chamber of Commerce, and have yet see very little hard cash benefit as a result.

Yet these people are significant in the place you want to make an impact. They can influence how you are perceived and upsetting the wrong people can have traumatic long term and consequences which only become visible when a big decision goes against you.

This is a complex world which your lack of social capital does not equip you for.

Understanding that this system is a brute fact of life and one to be got on with so it’s important to have a strategy to deal with it.

A key part of leadership is influencing your environment and context. Enabling shifts in strategy to benefit your work and your organisation is opaque and mysterious. So it’s vital to have a process to address this significant issue.

Knowing how to influence “upwards” is a tool you can acquire easily. It requires a leadership style authentic to you so you can still be comfortable in your own skin and yet still impactfully influence your stakeholders.

That is why I developed my Authentic Leadership Programme. It’s the sort of learning I wish I’d had years ago, it would have made a huge difference to me and my career.

Leadership is a craft which can be learned but it starts from within and with a deep understanding of the impact you want to create.

My Authentic Leadership Programme gives you the essential tools you need to be a significant leader in the place and art form which is important to you.

Message me if you think I can help with this.

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