Picasso didn’t like you…

Posted on March 30, 2009



The 1932 ‘Girl in Front of a Mirror” by Pablo Picasso, depicts a dilemma that we face as creative leaders. The girl is carefully scrutinizing herself. She is not taking a casual glance in hopes of making a quick improvement. Her desire is to look beyond her physical attributes and to gaze into her value, potential, and ultimately her future. She is looking in the mirror to rather change for the better or to doom herself to an unwanted fate. Because of Picasso’s morose nature, he uses it like a ‘cautionary tale’ saying; ‘you are headed for a doomed future…’ I don’t think Picasso liked us very much.

I typically do not like character trait lists, certainly not top ten ones. However, I felt compelled to capture the most common characteristics that effective leaders share- regardless of occupation. The purpose of a list like this is to challenge us to look deep into the mirror and see what our strengths AND weaknesses are- not for the purpose of self criticism but to help motivate change for a better future. Just like a real mirror, looking into it doesn’t change your appearance alone, only by taking action does anything really change. Prepare to look into the mirror.

This is a list I compiled from reading about leaders, observing leaders, and traits I have personally experienced. What are excluded from this list are core values like holiness, integrity, sound beliefs, etc. This list is about practical, human qualities to improve. So please understand this is not an exhaustive list. A real mirror reflects nothing of your internal health- so keep it in perspective. Here is my Top 11 Creative Leadership list. Why 11 and not 10? Why not?

A Creative Leader: 

  1.  Is obsessed with ideas from all different fields. A CL creates lots of ideas good and bad or big and small
  2. Embraces the freedom to fail and fails a lot. A CL creates a culture of healthy failures.
  3. Is confident, self assured, and independent. A CL is less needy of others approval. His approval comes from his own sense of excellence.
  4. Is bold in new areas. Not afraid to go to the edges even if it’s the unknown or it causes personal discomfort
  5. Has an astute awareness of reality. Can pinpoint what or who is the problem and is willing to call it out. Not afraid to nip mediocrity in the bud.
  6.  Passionate about innovation. Drives self, others, and organization to be creative.
  7. Is the Champion of the organization. Regardless of title, the CL feels the weight and responsibility to be the champion for others sake.
  8. Embraces a high attention to detail- because love is in the details
  9. Believes that design rules. Whether you on-line or off-line, 2-D or 3-D, design matters.
  10. Works like a fashion designer- meaning he/she is constantly changing. A CL embraces change and encourages it in others
  11. Is servant focused. Ultimately, it’s all about the benefit of others.

What will you do now that you looked into the mirror? Let’s prove Picasso wrong.