I’ve worked with some tough clients. Some have acted irrationally. Others with distrust and even distain.
But none were as tough as Pope Julius II.
It wasn’t that he was demanding. It was that he kept changing his mind. He had wild, ephemeral expectations, but gave little concrete direction. He probably coined the phrase, “I don’t know what I want, but I’ll know it when I see it.”
He considered himself a great patron of the arts. He did much to beautify Rome, laid the foundation of St. Peter’s Basillica, and was a friend of Raphael and Bramante. So even though he wasn’t a craftsman, couldn’t paint, sculpt or design, he thought he knew great art better than those producing it.
To compound the problem, Pope Julius II was more concerned for his own personal fame as a member of the family of della Rovere (i.e., personal glory) than for the advancement of the influence and authority of the Roman Catholic Church (i.e., the brand).
Each of you will probably have a Pope Julius II sometime in your careers. Maybe several of them. Ridiculous. Egotistic. Impossible-to-please.
Here’s the thing. This is what Michaelangelo did for this impossible-to-please client:
This weekend, if you’re planning your Charlton Heston Memorial Bash, I suggest you skip The Ten Commandments and check out The Agony and the Ecstasy, the movie based on Irving Stone’s biography of Michaelangelo.
It will show you that if you’re not doing great work, you shouldn’t blame the client. Michaelangelo didn’t.