Ambitious leadership seminar discusses Denmark as cultural nation


Once a year the executive directors of the Danish government-backed cultural institutions such as the National Gallery of Denmark and the Royal Danish Theater meet for a leadership seminar that runs for 24 hours. The Danish Ministry of Culture is the official host and the purpose of the meeting is to strengthen the strategic agenda for the national cultural institutions as well as bring together colleagues that work in quite unique leadership contexts. Last fall the Ministry asked us to help develop the program and moderate the leadership seminar in May 2017. Our founder Nikolaj Stagis was the moderator throughout the process.

Setting an agenda of national cultural leadership

Supporting the steering committee who are representatives from the Danish cultural institutions, we wanted to set an agenda that would encourage ambition and visionary leadership at this years seminar. We wanted to see how the cultural institutions and their directors could help Denmark advance as a cultural nation. A country that develops, supports and shares culture in it’s widest sense and the arts as it’s most prestigious and sublime output. Most government-backed institutions spend much time and energy running the day-to-day operations, serving their audience, securing the best conditions for the artists, making sure next years budget will be in balance and so on. But when do leaders of cultural life discuss their strategies for national culture at the highest level of ambition and scale? And when do they think about their common role in the development of the society they are part of? We wanted to inspire those issues for the benefit of the country, the institutions and the executives.


Rector of The Danish Film School, Vinca Wiedemann, and Theater Director at the Royal Danish Theater, Morten Hesseldahl, set the agenda for the seminar and passed the stage to Mette Bock, the Danish Minister for Culture. With less than six months in the role of Culture Minister she gave an inspiring talk as an offset to dialogue about the future role of Danish cultural life and her expectations of the leadership role in the context of arts and culture.

New perspectives on cultural business

We wanted to give new perspectives as inspiration and give new insights. Some of the highlights of the outside inspiration we had found and presented at the event was businessman and CEO of Kvadrat, Anders Byrial, who talked about the collaboration of business and culture. General Secretary at the Prime Minister’s office in Finland, Pekka Timonen, talked about voluntary initiatives in one of the largest and most successful campaigns in Finland. And Rebecca Matthews who is the CEO of the highly successful European Capital of Culture, Aarhus 2017, talked about her views on Danish culture – and how our way of seeing ourselves sets a frame for our way of working. 

As one of the more physical and somewhat entertaining contributions, Simon Lajboschitz, the founder of Khora-VR, talked about future business models and gave demonstrations of virtual reality – a virtual experience that was interesting to be in and equally entertaining to watch as people started to move around in awkward positions with VR goggles on their heads.

Another interesting input was a preview of a music performance still in development at The Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus. All of the participants saw an unusual interplay between a robotics arm with light and sounds and a opera singer singing through a handheld microphone and speaker. The animation at the top of this article will give you an idea of this inspiring new project.

Changing the trade might change yourself

The purpose of the leadership seminar was not only to get new knowledge, but also to facilitate the mutual exchange of perspectives and experiences between peers. If you talk about setting an agenda for the entirety of your sector or trade, you will also be talking about the possible changes that your own institution may have to go through. Getting that insight might help set a strategic direction at both the sector level and the concrete level of each institution.

Want to know more?

If you want to know more about strategy development, finding common ambitions and process facilitation, feel free to call or write to Founder & Director of Strategy Nikolaj Stagis