Supporting Leadership Project


Read about the project findings in the Supporting Leadership Report (PDF)


Support staff play a key role in enabling dynamic cultural sector leadership. They provide a vital service to leaders, managing their offices and ensuring the smooth running of their engagements and fulfilment of their commitments. At an individual level support staff are highly valued within their respective institutions, however, as a collective, this staff group had been overlooked and had been absent from specific studies on cultural sector leadership and underrepresented in broader sectoral research, resources and initiatives.  

The Supporting Leadership project was initiated in March 2019 as a direct response to this knowledge gap. The project sought to examine in detail, the work of support staff in the cultural sector, in order to better define and raise awareness of these roles. 

Project process

The Supporting Leadership project used a digital consultation – open throughout July and August 2019 – to engage directly with leaders and with current and former support staff. 124 individuals from 61 different institutions across the breadth of the UK responded to the call for participants. Contributions were received from staff in museums, galleries, performing arts institutions, heritage sites, libraries, multidisciplinary institutions, and governing bodies.

The experiences of leaders and support staff have been drawn upon in order to define and describe the nature of support roles and to put together recommendations to support the improvement of working practices. 

The findings have been brought together in the Supporting Leadership report. Anonymised quotations have been used throughout the final publication, allowing issues and possible solutions to be described and defined through the consultation participants’ own words.

Project report

The project report is available here:

Supporting Leadership Report (PDF)

If you are not able to access the report, please email

The project findings point towards a need for greater clarity and for leaders and support staff to work together to shape and define individual roles, raise awareness across their institutions, and create a culture where staff feel empowered to take ownership of their work and celebrate their contributions. The Supporting Leadership Report sets out recommendations and provides practical advice for both leaders and support staff through a series of tools focusing on role descriptions, working environments, recruitment processes, and development pathways.


Project team

The Supporting Leadership project has been based in the Gardens, Libraries and Museums (GLAM) division at the University of Oxford, and was supported by Knowledge Exchange Seed Funding.

The project has been led by Vanessa Moore (lead author of the report) and Emma Thomas.

Vanessa held two administrative support roles within the University of Oxford at the time of the initiation of the project, working as the part-time Oxford Cultural Leaders Leaders Programme Coordinator within the Gardens, Libraries and Museums division and as the part-time National Trust Partnership Support Officer in the Humanities division. At the time of the publication of the report she was acting as a maternity cover Exhibitions Officer at Oxford University Museum of Natural History.

Vanessa Moore  |  |  tweets @vjamoore

Emma is the GLAM Projects Officer and Oxford Cultural Leaders Coordinator and was formerly Executive Assistant and Administration Manager at Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Emma Thomas  |   |  tweets @emmaclogs