Inside Pixar’s Leadership

Sunday, June 27th, 2010

Martin Giles from The Economist interviews Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar:

[At Pixar] there is very high tolerance for eccentricity, very creative, and to the point where some are strange, but there are a small number of people who are socially dysfunctional [and] very creative. We get rid of them. If we don’t have a healthy group then it isn’t going to work. There is this illusion that this person is creative and has all this stuff, well the fact is there are literally thousands of ideas involved in putting something like this together. And the notion of ideas as this singular thing is a fundamental flaw. There are so many ideas that what you need is that group behaving creatively. And the person with the vision I think is unique, there are very few people who have that vision, but if they are not drawing the best out of people then they will fail.

We will support the leader for as long and as hard as we can, but the thing we can not overcome is if they have lost the crew. It’s when the crew says we are not following that person. We say we are director led, which implies they make all the final decisions, [but] what it means to us is the director has to lead, and the way we can tell when they are not leading is if people say, “We are not following.”


  1. Catmull’s brother was my high school drafting teacher. I always called him Bill the Ferengi. He shaved his head and revealed large frontal lobes.

  2. Isegoria says:

    I can see Catmull’s brother as a high-school drafting teacher.

    When you see John Lasseter, you think, That guy should be leading a team of animators! When you see Catmull, you think, That guy should be berating his grad-student minions! There’s nothing fun, zany, or madcap in Catmull’s demeanor.

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