Avoiding Founder’s Syndrome in arts organizations: Studies of successful succession transitions in three established regional theatres
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Founder's Syndrome may occur when an organization operates according to the personality of the founder, rather than its mission. Since arts organizations are often initiated and dominated by a single artist/founder, the potential for an art-related business to succumb to Founder’s Syndrome is high; however, several large arts organizations have not only avoided Founder’s Syndrome, they have advanced the dreams of the founder beyond original concepts. Analyzing some success stories by comparing their processes with more recently established theories can provide insights for other arts organizations during leadership transitions. The nature of this study is to show evidence that theatre organizations need not succumb to Founder’s Syndrome. I analyzed three successful regional theatres from inception through today; The Barter Theatre of Abingdon, Virginia; the Dallas Theater Center in Dallas, Texas; and the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, California. Each of their founders, Robert Porterfield, Paul Baker, and William Ball, developed and implemented the concepts that defined their organizations. Today, the theatres are heralded as premier institutions amongst regional theatres. The companies were able to maneuver successfully through the tensions and difficulties that often mark leadership transitions. How this was accomplished, without the aid of today’s management theorists, is the focus of this dissertation.