5 Leadership Lessons from Creativity Inc.

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Pixar Post Creativity Inc Ed Catmull Book-2

If you want to impress Steve Jobs, you need to do more than just listen to the advice of one leader. Especially when that leader advises you to “walk in to a meeting last in order to establish yourself as the most powerful person in the room.” A former CFO of LucasFilms tried this tactic once, and Steve Jobs (who purchased Pixar from LucasFilm) got upset and started an important meeting without the egotistical leader…


Plenty of great leaders offer advice on how to become successful; and certainly all perspectives are valid. However, Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney Animations takes a much more “out of the box” approach to his leadership style, and he shares it with readers in Creativity Inc. He uses anecdotes from his young academic and professional careers striving to make computer animated films, and simplifies his learnings for future leaders. Catmull is a creative thinker who never settles until his work is award-winning.

Ed Catmull, author of Creativity Inc.

You may have heard of Pixar Animation Studios. Or perhaps of Disney? Have you seen Toy Story, A Bug’s Life, or Tangled? It probably doesn’t shock you much to learn that behind these award-winning films, many great leaders exercise incredible amounts of creativity, teamwork and leadership each day. Catmull encouraged much of the positive creative energy that fueled Disney and Pixar to such tremendous success.


Success is not always immediate. It requires hard work and perseverance.

“[A] Leader needs to say ‘land is that way’…”As long as you commit to a destination an drive toward it with all your might, people will accept when you correct course” (Catmull, p. 227)

Through trials and tribulations, Catmull crafted his own leadership style, and kindly exploits it for book readers to take and creatively adapt. Emphasis on creatively.

Here are the five best leadership lessons from Creativity Inc.

  1. Be open to change
  2. Failure is necessary 
  3. Open communication is key
  4. Surround yourself with great people
  5. Go on adventures

Each one of these is self-explanatory, and to explain them further would contradict the creative self-exploration Catmull encourages in his writing. Each individual must take what has already been created – and add their own special skills and passions to create something extraordinary. Extraordinary creators make extraordinary leaders.


Edited by: Armen Sargsyan

One Comment on “5 Leadership Lessons from Creativity Inc.”

  1. Emily, I bought this book after hearing your presentation. I can’t wait to read it. My favorite leadership lesson is “go on adventures,” as I think it makes the other four you’ve listed easier to do. The folks at Pixar must certainly be dreamers to come up with the stuff they do, and must certainly be influenced by the experiences of each of those movies’ animators. I wonder how the attitude at Pixar is different from the corporate or office attitudes at less successful animation studios. Is Pixar more open to change and try new things? It’s a fantastic case study, and I really enjoyed your presentation.

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