Pixar cofounder Ed Catmull exemplifies the greatest form of leadership: empowering others to achieve the extraordinary. People tend to think of creativity as a mysterious solo act, and they typically reduce products to a single idea: This is a movie about toys, or dinosaurs, or love, they’ll say. However, in filmmaking and many other kinds of complex product development, creativity involves a large number of people from different disciplines working effectively together to solve a great many problems. The initial idea for the movie—what people in the movie business call “the high concept”—is merely one step in a long, arduous process that takes four to five years.
An accomplished computer scientist who personally wrote some of the foundation code that made computer animation possible, Ed Catmul is an unpretentious man. He doesn’t like to talk about how he performs his job as president of Pixar and (since a 2006 merger) Disney Animation Studios. But the article and accompanying podcast shed light on his exceptional leadership qualities: