Arts Leaders As Cultural Innovators (ALACI)

A national adaptive leadership development program for individual change-makers in the arts and culture sector.

Why do we need adaptive leadership in the arts & culture field?

Rising leaders know that the best practices of the past can no longer guide solutions for the future. Given the complexity of our organizations and communities today, we need to move away from traditional models of heroic leadership — where leaders are the singular problem-solver or driving force, and instead develop adaptive leaders who can collaborate and distribute responsibility for tackling today's wicked problems.

In his book Leadership Without Easy Answers, Ronald Heifetz defines adaptive leadership as “mobilizing people’s hearts and minds to work together differently to address complex challenges.” Adaptive leadership skills continue to be under-developed and under-resourced in our field. Through ALACI, EmcArts brings our decade-long expertise to support the professional leadership development of individual change-makers, and leave a legacy of increased adaptive capacity in each participating community.

For more information about ALACI, contact Liz Dreyer, Senior Programs Manager.

Program Impact

  • Invested in 29 fellows across 4 states in Rhode Island, Washington DC, Arizona and New York
  • Engaged 18 nationally renowned faculty & experts in fields of innovation and arts management
  • Two national learning networks with adaptive leaders who learn, experiment and practice together
Introducing ALACI
ALACI equips arts leaders to thrive in complex and radically changing circumstances. The ALACI fellowship engages rising influencers in the arts, with 10 or more years of experience in the field, in a unique intensive program to advance their skills in guiding adaptive change processes in their own organizations and across their community. Fellows are selected through place-based cohorts, and they receive mentorship and support from a team of experts in the fields of leadership development and innovation.

The 18-month fellowship develops leaders abilities in key areas of adaptive leadership, including: systems analysis, process facilitation, behavioral change, self-awareness, ethical leadership, innovation frameworks, and much more. Fellows learn how to navigate complexity, and initiate, maintain and support adaptive change processes in their organizations and communities.

EmcArts has designed Arts Leaders as Cultural Innovators Program (ALACI) in collaboration with John McCann and Partners in Performance.


ALACI's way of looking at adaptive change is helping my community, my organization and me work differently. These are everyday, useful frameworks that you can put into practice right away.

Debbie Chess Madie, Executive Director, Tucson Pima Arts Council, Cohort 1 Fellow
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Program Elements
ALACI operates in two phases, and integrates group learning, executive coaching and individualized practice. Phase 1 of the fellowship focuses on adaptive learning and practice inside the leaders’ organizations, and Phase 2 supports adaptive leadership practice within the leaders’ local communities.

Fellows are individually paired with executive coaches who guide and mentor them in practicing adaptive responses. Additionally, through seminars and group learning opportunities, fellows are exposed to experts in an array of fields such as innovation, arts management, leadership development and organizational change management. Read more about our faculty and executive coaches for ALACI Cohort 1 and Cohort 2.
What do ALACI fellows gain?
Through ALACI, fellows develop the following core competencies for adaptive leadership: 
  1. An increased awareness of one’s core values, strengths, and preferences to the various tasks of leadership (emotional intelligence)
  2. An understanding of organizations and communities as complex adaptive systems (systems thinking, cultural competency)
  3. A strengthened ability to apply specific skills to advancing adaptive responses to complex organizational challenges (process facilitation, dialogic skills, active listening)
  4. A working knowledge of innovation as a framework for achieving organizational resilience (definition, practice, documentation, measurement)
  5. A broader capacity to engage with peers to achieve results beyond those which can be achieved when working alone (mutual influence, collaboration, sharing authority)