Raising Kids, Picasso and SuperLeadership


Back in the late-80s when there were only around 50 or so books on leadership, a book by Sims and Manz called SuperLeadership grabbed me! By “super” they meant “really great,” but they also meant super, from the Latin meaning “above,” i.e., leaders above leaders. Their whole idea, which has become way more popular since then, was simple: great leaders make followers into leaders themselves.

I was reminded of this idea when my friend Janet Lawson told me how she really dislikes the idea of “raising kids.” She says, “we don’t raise chicks, puppies or goslings; we raise chickens, dogs and geese.” And she wondered aloud: What would be different if we thought we were raising adults, not kids? It sure made me wonder: if someone watched my actions, heard my speech, traced my steps in the kitchen and family room and car, would they think my intent was to raise kids or adults? And what if we took it even a step further and asked, “What if we thought we were raising leaders?!”

Scott Blakeney, an RFL reader, loaned me A Touch of Greatness, a marvelous documentary. In it an extraordinary teacher named Albert Cullum offers this Picasso work as an image of how he tried to teach:

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Pablo Picasso, Mother and Child, 1921 © 2007 The Art Institute of Chicago. 111 South Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois, 60603-6404.

Mr. Cullum explained: “Teaching is pushing them away form you – through doors, different doors; not embracing them. When you embrace someone you’re holding them back. Picasso really captured that in his artwork Mother and Child: the chunky mother balancing the baby perfectly; she doesn’t hold him; he’s balanced; he can go, any time he’s capable of going. But he’s perfectly balanced. Classroom teaching should be that. Find a secure spot for them and then they’re ready to go.”

Raising adults. Raising leaders. You push them through doors, when you

Lead with your best self,