10 Tips For Making Collaborative Leadership Work

Collaborative Leadership

“Collaborative leadership needs people who can be open, flexible and responsive.”

For the last four years, Cornwall Museums Partnership (CMP) has been helping museums across the county become more open and connected to the people they serve. We set out with a clear aim to effect some fundamental changes by creating a collaborative culture within our own charity and across the museum sector in Cornwall. As an infrastructure charity that doesn’t run or own any museums, influencing ‘beyond authority’ is core to our approach. We believe that the power lies in the team.

Emmie Kell, CEO of Cornwall Museums Partnership, has recently written an article sharing ten things she learned about creating a collaborative culture over the last few years.


Read: Collaborative Leadership


Emmie Kell

Author – Emmie Kell

Published – Arts Professional 12/09/2019

12 principles of collaborative leadership

We’ve been thinking a lot about the power of collaboration in Cornwall over the last few years and how we can use it as a tool to help ensure the future sustainability of museums and galleries.

Most recently as part of our Arts Council funded Change Makers programme (a partnership between Dr Tehmina Goskar Cornwall’s Change Maker, Royal Cornwall Museum and Cornwall Museums Partnership) we have been reflecting on how collaborative working can assist culture change.

We’ve identified 12 principles of collaborative leadership for change:

  1. Changing things in a museum is really difficult and take a long time; it’s lonely
  2. You can’t do it on your own – you have to collaborate with others
  3. Museums are important players in civil society. But they are unusual. They are buildings full of old things and we expect people to part with money to enjoy them. Keep a sense of proportion
  4. Get to know what bubbles underneath the surface of your museum. What baggage is it carrying?
  5. How does the group’s behaviour compare to the individual’s? What relationships are at play?
  6. As a change agent, what’s it like being on the other end of me? What’s it like for others to be on the other end of you? Facilitation skills are really useful
  7. Change doesn’t pan out how you might have planned it; negotiate the outcomes, be flexible, communicate widely and regularly to achieve a collaborative culture
  8. Repetition of a few simple messages is key, especially common values around community, integrity and authenticity
  9. Be confident in challenging the status quo or accepted thinking, but use sparingly
  10. Be prepared for the inner biases and prejudices of others to be projected onto you; don’t accept poor behaviour but you will need to develop a strong stomach
  11. You’ve succeeded when you hear your words quoted back at you, don’t worry about receiving credit
  12. Don’t be the change they seek, be there to lead their change


Dr Tehmina Goskar @tehm

Emmie Kell @emmiekell

Trustees’ Gala Lunch keynotes and outcomes

On the 18th of May, Cornwall Museums Partnership hosted its first Trustees’ Gala Lunch in Heartlands, Pool. Over 50 senior decision makers from Cornwall’s heritage sector attended and discussed the vital importance of good leadership to the future of the UK’s museums and galleries. Recent conspicuous failures in governance in the not profit sector headlined by Kids Company, but with some notable difficulties in museums too, have highlighted the need for all Trustees to take leadership seriously. Cornwall Museums Partnership is at the forefront of raising awareness of the need for excellent levels of leadership and governance. The event included two high level speakers: Michael Day, Chief Executive of Royal Historic Palaces, and Paula Sussex, Chief Executive of the Charity Commission.

Attendees discussed the need for ongoing trustee skills development in order to help heritage organisations to survive and thrive in challenging times. Paula Sussex reinforced the critical importance of the Board in a charity’s performance, and Michael Day illustrated the importance of strategic leadership and the critical role Trustees can play in fundraising for their charities. Some of the key outcomes from the event included the importance of having diversity on the board, commitment to board development, the significance of establishing a relationship of trust between the Chair and the CEO, and the need to develop of succession plans.

Trustees’ Gala Lunch

With support from Heritage Lottery Fund, Cornwall Museum’s Partnership are hosting the Trustee’s Gala Lunch on the 18th May at Heartlands. We have secured two amazing and inspirational  keynote speakers for the day – Paula Sussex, the Chief Executive of the Charity Commission and Michael Day, Chief Executive of Historic Royal Palaces. There’s also the opportunity for Trustees to be involved in the ‘Manifesto for Leadership Workshop’, hosted by Sir Ferrers Vyvyan in the morning, with a lovely lunch provided by the Red River Café at Heartlands, and really get involved with a Q&A panel in the afternoon for all things leadership.

Museums and galleries should all have received 2 invitations for the event, if you don’t think your organisation has, and you’re a Trustee interested in attending please get in touch with Clare Pennington at Cornwall Museums Partnership – clare@cornwallmuseumspartnership.org.uk t. 01209 500750 before the 13th of May.