Agricultural Leadership, Education, and Communication, Department of


First Advisor

L. J. McElravy

Date of this Version

Spring 5-5-2023

Document Type



A thesis presented to the faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Science

Major: Leadership Education

Under the supervision of Professor L. J. McElravy

Lincoln, Nebraska, May 2023


Copyright 2023, Alison Gillespie


Within the performing arts industry, the social and financial consequences of leadership failure have proven costly. Additionally, the industry is still reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic’s disruption of standard operating procedures. Furthermore, leadership scholarship in the arts indicates that performing arts leaders are challenged by the need to balance artistry with administrative ability in their work (Secore, 2016).

As the performing arts industry endeavors to recover post-pandemic and to prevent future leadership failure, this study seeks to answer the question “what leadership expectations are held by those involved with the performing arts?” To answer this question, summative qualitative content analysis study design was employed to explore implicit theories of leadership held by performing arts education participants, performing arts educators, performing arts leaders, performing arts producers and performing arts practitioners who actively work/study in the United States.

This study yielded 228 characteristics that describe a performing arts leader. While some of these characteristics appeared to align with items and factors present in scales previously established to capture implicit theories of leadership, many characteristics generated did not sort clearly into these scales. This suggests that individuals in the performing arts context may have expectations of leaders that are distinct from expectations held by individuals in other contexts. Taking these distinct expectations into account while developing arts leaders could potentially yield a generation of performing arts leaders who are extraordinarily well equipped to meet the expectations of their roles.

Advisor: L.J. McElravy