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Set Leadership Structure & Roles


Impactful projects are what DFA is all about. To support projects and create a collaborative studio you need great people who know how they can help! By setting up leadership structure and roles, you are clarifying responsibilities, keeping each other accountable, and most of all, reducing the workload of everyone to make leading DFA rewarding and fun.

Output: Set leadership structure and leadership team with a clear understanding of their roles and tasks.

Effective ways to set leadership structure & roles:

  1. Check out DFA National’s suggested studio roles and tasks.
    • Check out “DFA Leadership Structure Roles”, a document compiling the leadership roles and responsibilities that studios in our network have in some capacity.
    • Check out “DFA Studio Lead Roles” to see what tasks needs to be done before, during, and after each term.
    • Determine the ideal number of team leads to help take projects through the process next term.
  2. Determine the roles and responsibilities of your current team based on your studio goals and priorities.
    • Check out “Set studio vision” and “Set Goals on a timeline” for refreshers on ways to define priorities, needs, and capacity of your studio!
    • Ask these 4 questions:
      • Why is each role helpful for your studio?
        • Each position should address a need in your studio and be empowered to make an impact on your studio in some way.
      • How will the person in each position interact with the teams and other leads to reach their goals?
        • Do they need to be updated on team progress? Share work or results with other? Help teams meet deadlines and goals?
      • What specific things will the person do to reach their goals?
        • Making monthly newsletters, submitting budget proposals, and meeting with mentors are all specific actions that a role may do to fulfill its responsibilities.
      • What will success look like for this role?
        • Make success exciting and manageable; it’s hard to know if you are doing a good job if you don’t know what ‘good’ looks like.
    • Draw out your structure and roles the structure and roles to visually communicate your structure to the studio and new leads. Check out “Transition Leadership” to see how this document will come in play as your transition leadership!
  3. Define any additional tasks or positions you need to help reach your studio goals.
    • Some responsibilities a studio should do together includes recruiting new members! This involves application making, reading, making swag, getting the word out!
  4. Finalize goals and how you will maintain accountability.
    • Share the year-long, term-long, and short-term goals for each role with each other and give feedback as a group.
    • Share the concerns of each person and talk about ways people can support each other to be their best and accomplish things!
  5. Start making an impact with your studio.
    • Don’t forget that your structure may need to change couple years down the road as the people change. Give it your best shot and pivot as needed! Check out “Manage Leadership Team” for ways to check-in with leads and keep each other accountable!

Network Best Practices

Check out notes from this Spring 2016 group call on Leadership Training & Documenting roles and responsibilities!

Six studios came together to talk about leadership training and transitions for the monthly group call. Some of the key takeaways from the conversations were:

  • As studios iterate on their leadership structure and roles, focus on the responsibilities rather than pre-defined roles, because people and goals change every year.
  • Having a visual of the leadership structure comes in handy when recruiting leaders for next year’s leadership.
  • It’s important to set clear expectations for each role as new leaders take on the roles. If the expectations shift, make sure they are aligned with the studio’s goals.
  • Check out below for the full notes of the call here

Structure examples:

DFA NU’s leadership structure w/ roles descriptions of 6 leads (2014-2015). Download here!

DFA Alabama’s studio leadership structure (2015-2016). View here.

DFA RISD|Brown’s leadership structure (2014-2015). View here.

DFA MSU’s leadership structure (2015-2016). View here.