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"Thoughts on Leadership"

By Bryn Parchman, President and CEO of Port Discovery Children’s Museum

What does it mean to be a woman in a leadership position at an arts non-profit in today’s world?

Golda Meir, the former Prime Minister of Israel, was once asked about how she learned leadership, she replied, “ I entered an elevator with a number of male diplomats, and nobody pressed a button for our floor. I pressed it.” Leadership means acting when others won’t or can’t. Women are exceptionally equipped to be servant leaders. Servant leaders build their team’s skills, confidence and achievements. The CEO’s role in a non-profit or any enterprise is to inspire and motivate co-workers, board members and other stakeholders to succeed in meeting the mission of the organization.

What challenges/obstacles have you faced and how have you overcome them?

Challenges abound daily. It's what you do with them that counts. Our most significant challenge was and still is, growing the financial support for our institution. Nothing is more important to me than seeing a sustainable foundation to ensure future generations of Baltimore’s children have the oasis that is Port Discovery Children's Museum. If you find yourself at the end of a road, pick another one. I have found that it's often when you think you have no options, when it seems impossible, that's when amazing things can happen.

How do you encourage other women to become leaders in their organizations or sectors?

My best advice on encouraging others to become leaders is simple ... just do it! Step up and take on tasks large and small in your organizations. Build experience in all the facets of your enterprise. Don’t be afraid of failure- learn from it and bounce back stronger. Boards want CEOs and other leaders they can trust. Be that person. Go through and past your fears. You will emerge stronger and more understanding of your team, as a leader or a follower.

How does working in the arts today influence your leadership?

Baltimore is blessed with a manifestly talented and accomplished group of leaders in the Arts. Having been on this scene for over 20 years, I have had many mentors and peers encouraging my efforts and leading the way. Look outside your comfort zone for those who can help. Ask for advice -- people are generous in sharing. And embrace the feedback - listening is important.

How can the arts empower other women to take leadership roles?

Elements of surprise exist everywhere in the arts, in every medium -- challenging us, pushing our boundaries, making us see things in new ways we never thought possible. Through the process of discovery, creativity, imagination, wonder, and resilience - we grow. Great leaders continue to grow. Believe in yourself. We often use an expression here for our children...if you can dream it, you can do it.... Words that I think can guide us all, long past childhood!


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