Walt Disney-Leader

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Walt Disney is the prolific creator and leader of The Walt Disney Company. Disney is most recognized for his gallant efforts which created the Disney empire, yet his leadership style is one that has melded into a company culture and a prescribed way of organizational leadership. Disney is a man of many words and accomplishments which has led the Disney organization to extensive success. Throughout his 43 year career in film and television, Disney was the personification of a great leader. His career began at 19 with the creation of Iwerks-Disney Commercial Artists, which was short lived.

However, from this disappointment, he gained notoriety for his cartooning in Kansas City where Disney worked with Newman Laugh-O-Grams. Eventually, this led Walt and his brother Roy to pool together their finances to start their own cartoon company in Hollywood. And, as they say in Hollywood, the rest is history! The success of The Walt Disney Company is in large part indebted to the leadership style of Walt. He built strong relationships, challenged teams for innovation, led by example, and encouraged risk. He was a hands-on leader who catapulted his organization to the top in Hollywood and beyond.

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His legacy continues in the company and in the theme parks he developed. Walt Disney is the sort of leader one can emulate and strive to be like – legendary. Walt Disney had strong feelings about how his company would be managed. His leadership philosophy was simple, build relationships, show respect, ask for innovation and creation, and reward your people. Disney said, “Courage is the main quality in leadership, in my opinion it usually implies some risk. ” (http://disneyinstitute. com/about_us/our_story. aspx) This quote speaks volumes; he believed in working, not talking about working.

Walt Disney was an innovator in the field of animation and without encouraging his team to take a risk, to be courageous; he would not have been the leader in the animation world. As a relationship based leader, Walt Disney took the time to invest in his employees. An example of this is the opportunity he gave his employees to attend art school to learn more about animation. This was optional and free to the employee, and over eighty percent of them jumped at the offer. He saw that without knowledge, the company could not grow and stay ahead of the innovation curve. Walt Disney: Magician of the Movies, New York, NY: Grosset & Dunlap, Thomas, B. (1966)) Disney also felt that everyone was equal and shared in the contribution of the success or failure of the company. He felt it was important to stay in contact with the business’s front lines. He knew his employees by name and expected them to call him Walt.

Disney also did his fair share of coaching and supporting. He did less delegating and more motivating. He was a leader who drove the people around him to achieve the goals of the organization. Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal. ” (http://www. forbes. com/sites/lewishowes/2012/07/17/20-business-quotes-and-lessons-from-walt-disney/4/) This is all apparent in the innovation of The Walt Disney Company’s portfolio; from animation, short stories, books, television, theme parks, hotels, leadership seminars, and more. It is hard to find weaknesses regarding the leadership of Walt Disney. When he is studied, it is in a positive light.

Although Disney led his organization to stellar levels, at times it was floating at bankruptcy levels. His brother Roy was more of the financial mastermind behind the business and Walt, in the later half of his career, became the figurehead. Roy was the only person who could tell Walt ‘no’. Not taking ‘no’ for an answer can be both a strength and weakness. Being a good leader is also about being able to give others credit where credit is due and at some times Disney did not do this. In fact, many of his works were not his works at all. He simply had others do the work for him.

Now, that may seem vague but Walt was not an artist, although he always strived to be one. He attached his name to many works that were not his. (http://www. businessweek. com/stories/2006-12-03/walts-not-so-wonderful-world) He also had a tough childhood with a despondent father and struggled to build relations with his family. This repeated itself within his own family – his wife Lillian was known to have struggled with Walt’s introverted nature. A well balanced leader will have matched work and home lives. The strengths of Walt Disney far outweigh the weaknesses.

Disney was a dreamer. He, as mentioned above, did not take ‘no’ for an answer. If felt if you could dream it, it could be. So, he took great risks – without them we would not have color, animated, full length films. He used his vision and motivation to encourage his employees to be great. Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. ” (http://en. wikiquote. org/wiki/Walt_Disney) Walt created an unmatched culture within The Walt Disney Company.

He was so influential on popular culture and children of all ages, that the Disney experience still captivates an enormous audience. Additionally, as a leader he was so well known for building relationships with the people with whom he worked with. This supportive style of leadership was crucial in building the Disney brand. He brought us the ‘happiest place on Earth’. The leadership qualities possessed by Disney are today brought together through the Disney Institute. This division of The Walt Disney Company offers the magic of successful leadership to the public forum.

Leaders from all organizations can now be schooled in the leadership mantra of Disney. The institute teaches people how to lead the Disney way, which was founded by Walt and is still in place throughout the Disney organization today. This is theory that leaders should promote creativity, motivate their teams, encourage innovation and risk, and be able to participate in the development of their organizations. (http://disneyinstitute. com/) Walt Disney is a leader unlike many others – he is not only a business leader, but a leader of creativity. He encouraged people to be courageous and think outside the box.

He was not one who concerned himself with the heavier side of the business – monies, financials, legalities – but one who believed in making magic. Making people happy was the dream of Disney. He wanted to be innovative and prolific within his industry. He was able to do this due to the many qualities he possessed which allowed him to be such a notable leader. He was a courageous, creative, innovative, encouraging, mentoring, relational, motivational man with the dreams of happiness for all in his head. He was strong willed and did not lack self-confidence – which could all be traits of a successful leader.

Traits don’t always predict the success of a person, yet many of these are notable qualities he possessed. When Walt Disney is thought of, we remember Disney World, Disney Land, and the movies that we loved as a child. We also think of his ability to create and innovate. Without the successful leadership he offered to his organization, none of these dreams would have ever been brought to life. As a man who would never take no for answer, his dreams really did come true. Walt Disney is a visionary, not only in the field of animation, but in the small circle of the world’s greatest leaders.

His qualities are ones which can be practiced – which makes his leadership style realistic. Bringing together his practical skills of coaching, supporting, and mentoring he grew a company from near bankruptcy to a legacy which keeps on giving. His relationships with his employees were key to his success – as followers only ‘follow’ a good leader. For a good example, Snow White led the Dwarfs – as Walt led the Disney team; each overcame adversity and each made a success out of a not so good start. Furthermore, Disney believed in the public.

In fact, he made them top of mind; with a happy public the critics just don’t matter. His creativity led The Walt Disney Company to the top in the industry and without it, the happiest place on Earth would never have been thought of. A great leader is innovative, courageous, and a dreamer. Disney never let a fall keep him on the ground; he always rose taller and stronger than before. With the help of others, Disney gave everyone around the world some of the best memories. His leadership style is practical and he delivered it in an exceptional and magical way – the only way Walt Disney could.

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Walt Disney-Leader. (2017, Jan 22). Retrieved from


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