The Leadership Style of Maria Popova

The Wing Luke Museum, located in Seattle’s International District, recently coined the term ‘cultural decider’ to describe a person whose role in society is to reveal how tensions, traditions, norms and rituals affect decision making. Maria Popova, the creative tour-de-force of the hugely popular literary web publication, Brain Pickings, embodies this phrase. Noticing her colleagues at an ad agency seeking inspiration from watching their competitors, she realized there were much better ways to be inspired. With that insight, she began Brain Pickings as a company email newsletter in 2006. Today, it’s one of the best (if not the best) literary publications on the web with a following of 607K on Twitter, 3.7M on Facebook, 40K on Instagram, as well as 500K email subscribers to her weekly digest.

She’s my creative production super hero. While many bloggers (including me) struggle to post every week or two, Maria Popova holds down a full-time job and publishes to her blog three times a day. Her daily routine resembles the regimen of an Olympic athlete.

Maria Popov poses thought-provoking questions, such as this in one of her recent blogs:

"is the responsibility of the cultural enterprise to cater to what people, or “the people,” already crave, or is it to create new, more elevated tastes by insisting on the substantive over the vacant?"

This same question can be applied to marketing as well:

Is it the responsibility of business to cater to what the market wants or to create a new, more elevated demand?

I believe the answer is both. In business and in leadership, if you want to bring a new idea into reality, you have to meet people where they are. To change what people want, you have to change how they feel about what they desire and then position your new idea as a step to get them there.

Is it the responsibility of the cultural enterprise/business to cater to what people already crave?

Is it the responsibility of the cultural enterprise/business to create new, more elevated tastes by insisting on the substantive over the vacant?

Yes, to both.

Maria Popova is a leader of the Information Age. I admire her perspective on
information consumption. She helps her readers see beyond the latest news in their social media feed to a deeper experience of the conveyed information.

Essentially, she’s a cultural critic, much like Andy Grundberg and Wendy Steiner, but with a modern web-librarian style that makes her writing feel more like ‘a thought tour’ than ‘ivory tower philosophy.’ This makes her posts easy to read and a delight to look at. Here are a couple posts that I like: Fixed vs. Growth Mindset and Harry Clark's 1925 Illustrations for Goethe's Faust.

Her blog doesn’t give away much about her story. Here are a couple places where you can learn more about her: in New York Times and Copyblogger.

Now it's your turn.

This post is part of series called: Leadership Style: How to Level-up Your Personal Brand.

I challenge you to create a list of leaders who inspire you. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a chain of blogs referencing stylish leaders around the globe?

Blog about it, mention this post, leave your url in the comments below and I’ll add it to this article.  #womenleaders #leadershipstyle #powerfulbrand