11th Apr 2013

Preparation is vital: so what should Alex Beard be focusing on?

Tony Hall’s move to the BBC left the top job at the Royal Opera House vacant. Alex Beard was recently announced as Hall’s successor. The 49 year old will join the ROH from the Tate, where he has been Deputy Director since 2002. During his tenure at the Tate Beard worked closely with its Director Nicholas Serota: he was responsible for Tate’s business activities, including the development of Tate Modern, and the launch of The Tanks in summer 2012. Beard joined Tate as the Finance Director in 1994, prior to which he worked at the Arts Council for 7 years.

Beard was recently awarded CBE for services to the arts. While his professional life has focused predominantly on the visual arts, Beard has been on the board at Glyndebourne Productions Ltd since 2008, and he is also a keen amateur cellist. His appointment was a surprise to many, because of his lack of experience in the performing arts.

Serota recently spoke of Beard’s achievements and appointment, “He helped create Tate Modern, and he has been hugely important in the Tate’s business development. To the Royal Opera House he will bring imagination, competence and an understanding of what it means to work with artistic directors. I think he will be a great chief executive.”

Some of Beard’s top priorities will be audience development and diversifying the ROH’s sources of income.

Finance director Sally O’Neill will act as interim CEO until Beard takes up his position in time for the 2013/2014 season. He will be available for consultation prior to this. Beard has plenty of time to prepare for his new role and he should use this time wisely.

When we are faced with a new or overwhelming task, it is hugely beneficial to take a step back, take a deep breath and get organised. Beard has time now to take control and prepare for his new role. Beard should pay attention to both the right and left side of the brain: he should be acknowledging and managing his emotional state, and he should start conducting early research into his new role. Taking on a new leadership position and leading a new team is highly stressful. There can be a temptation to block out the uncomfortable feelings and fears, but Beard needs to acknowledge and deal with these issues in order to be the best leader that he can be. This is also a valuable time for carrying out early research. Beard should be figuring out the size, shape and quality of his inherited team, and that of his competitor’s team.

Preparation is vital for early performance acceleration. If Beard plans ahead and gets organised, he should be ready to hit the ground running when he takes up his role as CEO of the Royal Opera House.

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