In February 2020, Bob Iger announced that he was stepping down as CEO of The Walt Disney Company after serving 15 years on duty. Even before the announcement, Iger intended to retire sooner, but stayed on for as long as he could. He was succeeded by Bob Chapek, who has garnered a lot of negative feedback recently; someone even started a petition to get the newly-appointed CEO fired.
Iger was a beloved leader at Disney and showed no hesitation to rebuild Disney’s brand and get the company back on track (after hitting some setbacks under Eisner’s watch). But, what is it about Bob Iger’s leadership at Disney that was so special?
In his 2019 book titled “The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company,” Iger broke down 10 core principles for great leadership. According to Forbes, Iger’s 10 principles were optimism, courage, focus, decisiveness, curiosity, fairness, thoughtfulness, authenticity, the relentless pursuit of perfection, and integrity. These 10 principles defined his leadership style, which helped him implement Disney’s strategy to better the company.
The first of Bob Iger’s principles for great leadership is having optimism. Being optimistic sets the right tone for a company, rather than being pessimistic and having no faith in what you’re doing. Employees want to work for someone who believes in their ideas and looks at situations positively. Instead of panicking, a good leader must plan their next move during a time of stress so that employees have something to look forward to.
Bob Iger’s major achievements at Disney would not have been possible without courage. The greatest leaders take risks and aren’t afraid of failure. They don’t play it safe; they step out of their comfort zone, try new methods, and pick themselves back up if things don’t work out the way they planned it.
In his book, Iger quoted Dan Burke, former president of Capital Cities/ABC, “Avoid getting into the business of manufacturing trombone oil. You may become the greatest trombone-oil manufacturer in the world, but in the end, the world only consumes a few quarts of trombone oil a year!” In other words, don’t focus on small projects that give back little in return. Instead, focus on big projects that can produce bigger, beneficial results, according to Shortform.
There is a difference between making impulsive decisions and making smart decisions. Good leaders want to go for the latter. Of course, you want to take your time with the decision-making process, just don’t drag it out for a long, extensive time.
MasterClass said it best: Effectively make a decision and once it’s been made, stick with it! Even if things don’t work out in the end, don’t dwell on what went wrong; learn from the experience and move on.
Another key factor to Bob Iger’s leadership at Disney is his openness to curiosity. It leads to imagination, which plays a big factor in the company’s success. Walt Disney once said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”
From another perspective, curiosity also leads to questions. Asking questions helps individuals gain knowledge and improve the work that they produce.
Fairness and treating people with kindness gains the respect of your employees. A good leader should treat their employees how they would want to be treated. Hostility, rudeness, and inequality can leave a sour note on a company’s reputation.
Inc. Magazine noted that Bob Iger’s reason for stepping down as CEO was that he became “a bit more dismissive of other people’s opinions” than he should have been. Over time, Iger became less open-minded, partially because he grew a bit overconfident in his own abilities, the source continues.
How does this play into Bob Iger’s principles for great leadership? Great leaders are thoughtful and considerate of others, especially towards their opinions. People appreciate when someone takes the time to hear what’s on their mind or understand what they’re going through.
Being real and honest gains your followers’ trust. Don’t try to be someone you’re not; it’s easier to be yourself! Authenticity comes with originality and different ideas, but that’s not a bad thing.
Change allows a company to grow and new methods can set them apart from its competitors. However, some may not agree with your ideas, which is why it’s also essential to find common ground.
The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection
Bob Iger’s major achievements at Disney happened because of his desire not to settle for mediocrity or something that was “good enough.” Disney World was “good enough” before Pandora and Toy Story Land came into the picture.
Those are just two of the immersive areas in the Disney Parks that the company created under Iger’s watch, according to AllEars.Net. The relentless pursuit of perfection means not settling for less. If something can be improved, work hard to make it happen!
The last of Bob Iger’s principles for great leadership lies in having true integrity. It’s hard to explain, but the way I think of it is knowing who you are as a leader, using your best judgment when making decisions for the company, and keeping its legacy alive. Leaders League quotes Iger when he says, “nothing is more important than the quality and integrity of an organization’s people and its product.”
Bob Iger’s Impact on The Walt Disney Company
Thanks to Bob Iger’s leadership at Disney and his ambitious pursuits, The Walt Disney Company saw some amazing changes that left lasting impacts with Disney fanatics around the world.
Some of those changes include buying Marvel, Pixar, 21st Century Fox, and Lucasfilm; the retheming of Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World, incorporating more Disney branding to the theme parks, focusing on high-quality films, and launching Disney+.
When Chapek became the new CEO in February 2020, Iger was appointed as executive chairman to initially oversee the transition of Chapek in his new role. However, Iger’s mandate was extended until the end of 2021 to guide the company through the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.
What Awaits For Disney’s Future?
What could the future look like after the pandemic under Chapek’s leadership? It’s hard to say. Since Chapek took over, Disney has seen the effects of an ongoing global pandemic, the debut of Genie+ and Lightning Lanes (the new paid FastPass system), and price increases for both theme park tickets and food and beverages.
According to WDW News Today, price increases have been tied with new policies, reduced service levels, and the removal of free benefits that guests have enjoyed years beforehand. With less entertainment due to the pandemic, guests have to pay more for less, the article continues.
Genie+ and Lightning Lanes have had their fair share of complaints as well. At Disney World, Genie+ is $15 per person per day, and at Disneyland, it’s $20 per person per day. Popular attractions like Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure Park and Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom require additional fees. You can only book one Lightning Lane per attraction per day.
About a month ago, I watched a YouTube video from Theme Park Obsession, where he compared the lines at Disneyland for Lightning Lanes and standby. One of the biggest complaints he found was that he was constantly looking at his phone trying to book a Lightning Lane for the ride he wanted to go on next. Therefore, he never got to enjoy the scenery of the parks much.
Chapek hopes to change his legacy by focusing on his “three pillars” innovation; as part of the innovation, “Disney will enter into sports betting, cryptocurrency, the metaverse, and back into the real estate industry,” the previous article continues. Though his intentions to increase profits are good, will these short-term profits benefit Disney in the long haul? We’ll have to wait and see what happens!