Fan or not, The Walt Disney Company is widely successful. Even with a few movie flops and challenges in management, things have definitely turned around for the better with Bob Iger as their CEO since 2004. Recently, Iger released a memoir entitled, "The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company". Within the pages are intriguing stories and messages of inspiration for any business owner. He details his steps up the ladder at ABC, Disney's acquisition of Pixar and his relationship with Steve Jobs, acquiring Marvel and Lucasfilm, and opening more Disney parks across the world.
Let's examine some top business leadership lessons from Disney's CEO.
Take a Risk
Iger offers the following advice: "Innovate or die." It would be easy for Disney to continue to operate at status quo and ride on their history but Walt Disney didn't want it that way. Walt believed that guests to his parks should leave with the feeling that they'd want to come back, that they missed something. The parks are known for their "imagineering", a combination of engineering and imagination, and this impressive group continues to innovate and amaze guests.
There is plenty of competition ready to move in and better what Disney has already created. Technology means that change is coming at you quickly. Be ambitious but patient, courageous but smart. Keep looking forward but stay aware of opportunities right in front of you.
Iger says, "A company's reputation is the sum total of the actions of its people and the quality of its products." Integrity is a must, among employees and among the products or services that you're offering. Integrity also starts at the top of any organization. As a leader, you must:
- Do the homework necessary before any big decision.
- Be prepared to step in to help others.
- Convey your goals and company mission repeatedly and clearly.
- Be clear about who you are and what your company is about.
- Embrace risk with "enthusiasm and creativity".
- Treat others with respect. Be accessible and sensitive to their situations.
- Carry yourself as an "embodiment" of your company.
- Remember the value of every company you work with or acquire lies in its people.
Be an Optimist
"No one wants to follow a pessimist." As a leader, there are a multitude of stressful moments that could easily bring you down. That is the best time to be an optimist. Optimism means having faith in yourself, believing in your goals and the people you've surrounded yourself with. Hire those that are not only great in their skills, but also fair, honest, respectful and open to learn. Work with your team to meet challenges but also be clear and communicative about your expectations. Do what you have to do to take care of your own health and personal needs (Iger wakes up before dawn each day for exercise and quiet) so that you can bring your best to your business.
Prepare Others to Step Into Your Shoes
As Iger reflects on how easy it is to believe you're indispensable, he offers the following advice, "It's not good to have power for too long." Good leadership is about working with others to prepare them for your job. Give them access to your decision-making process and help them improve. Nurture those around you to be conscious of their own goals and ideas. And most importantly, remember to be humble and aware of who you are. The moment that you believe you're the only one with good ideas or the only one who can do your job, you're creating a divide between you and those who work with you.
The Disney brand is synonymous with creativity and innovation. It's not easy stepping into the role once occupied by Walt Disney himself. Bob Iger's book is as entertaining as a ride at the parks and also just as audacious. He invites you to be a better leader too.