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The history of corporate portrait photography and the evolution of leadership makes for an interesting comparison.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, corporate portraits, like the leadership styles of the subjects, were of stern-face corporate barons.  These titans of business ruled with a command-and-control top-down philosophy of leadership that was the overwhelming custom of the day.

Today, many corporate CEO photographs that show up in annual reports and on the walls at headquarters, reflect the changing leadership style landscape.  The good portraits, like the leaders they portray, are engaging.  You feel as though you want to connect with the person.  The bad photographs capture the likeness of the executive but little else.  You look at the photograph, and you feel a sense of ambivalence about the subject.

Dallas photographer Holly Kuper, whose work has appeared in magazines throughout the U.S. and Europe and whose style makes her a favorite of corporations and customers, has a unique gift to draw from her subjects those qualities that capture their essence, that project engagement.

“I frequently tell the executives that I am photographing not to look at the camera but to look through the lens.  I try to put myself in their place and to think about the people they want to engage…”

As healthcare moves through a transformative shift in focus, from sick care to population health, system CEOs must engage their employees by empowering their innovative instincts and shared devotion to the organization.

To borrow Holly’s approach:  Leaders need to look through the camera lens, to see their employees as real people with varying personalities and needs, not as a utilitarian resource to accomplish objectives.  We have robots for that.

© 2012 John Gregory Self