Beyond Mickey’s Ten Commandments: Leadership Lessons from Disney’s Imagineers

There are two ways to look at a blank sheet of paper. It can be the most frightening thing in the world because you have to make the first mark on it. Or it can be the greatest opportunity in the world because you get to make the first mark – you can let your imagination fly in any direction, and create whole new worlds.  -Marty Sklar’s words to the Imagineers in 1966

Retired Disney Imagineer Mary Sklar had a remarkable 54-year career with the Disney organization. His work covered many areas of the organization, but focused on Imagineering, the group Walt created that blended creative imagination with technical know-how.

Sklar is best known for “Mickey’s Ten Commandments,” but in his recently published book Dream It, Do It! he revealed 3 additional lists: 2 on “The Leader’s Bible” and 1 on “Followership.”

The Leader’s Bible, Part One

  1. Create and maintain a climate of trust.
  2. Be responsive and make decisions – that’s what leader’s do!
  3. Empower your teammates – it takes many hands to bake a success.
  4. Create opportunities for new birds to fly.
  5. Remember: experience is not a negative.
  6. Make sure yours is not the only voice you are listening to.
  7. Celebrate diversity and different points of view.
  8. Never rest on your laurels – the next at-bat is your most important.
  9. Take a chance – support risk-taking.
  10. Provide plenty of blank paper.

The Leader’s Bible, Part Two

  1. Be optimistic – if you are not positive, who else will be?
  2. Courage and confidence are major cross streets on the road to success.
  3. Make curiosity your search engine.
  4. Learn to love you next assignment – be passionate about whatever you do.
  5. Provide time to explore – but deadlines are great motivation and discipline.
  6. Take time to teach – mentors are mensches.
  7. Forget the politics – it’s not an election!
  8. Traditions are important – but change is the great dynamic.
  9. Team and work are four-letter words – but together they spell “winner.”
  10. Remember: the last three letters of trend are E-N-D!

WD Quote Dream It Do It

Sklar’s ideas and principles were developed and implemented over decades of leadership with Disney’s Imagineers. They were formed by lessons learned from Sklar’s mentors, most notably Walt Disney and designer John Hench. They served the team of designers, engineers, architects, technicians, and others responsible for creating the Disney theme park experiences well…

…they will be pretty good for leaders in your organization, too!

 

Inspired by Dream It, Do It: My Half-Century Creating Disney’s Magic Kingdoms, by Marty Sklar Disney Legend and Imagineering Ambassador

Dream It Do It

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5 thoughts on “Beyond Mickey’s Ten Commandments: Leadership Lessons from Disney’s Imagineers

  1. As a Disney Imagineer from (1985–1992) I was enormously fortunate to have been mentored by Marty Sklar. The two lists above only scratch the surface (but it’s a good surface and 20 deep scratches) of Marty’s wisdom and creative mentoring. He said to me, several times, one-on-one, “I want you to be a success here.” Once when I asked what exactly he had in mind he told me he wanted me to have opportunities to grow and fully express all my creative abilities. He did that over and over with me and SCORES of my fellow Imagineers. When asked for a quote about working at “WDI” (Walt Disney Imagineering) to be used in a recruitment brochure I said “It (thinking up new theme parks and attractions) is the hardest fun I’ve ever done.” Marty and I remain friends to this day. I cannot recommend his book enough. I visited in his home in Los Angeles just a few months ago and his NEXT book will be even better! (Meanwhile, after reading Marty’s book, you can read mine: “HATCH! : Brainstorming Secrets of a Theme Park Designer.”)

    • McNair, my copy of “HATCH!” is well-read, heavily written-in, and has a veritable rainbow of Post-It notes in it! It is a marvelous book that I have recommended to many of my ministry leadership friends and has been very influential in my ongoing creative development. I’m anxiously awaiting your next book (and the news that Marty is working on another book – WOW!). Thanks for sharing your gift of creativity and humor with us.

      • Hi, Bob!
        I always love hearing about “well-loved” copies of ANY of my books (5 so far.) Love to see a snapshot (hint) of your copy of HATCH! with rainbow Post-its and marginal scribbling. My email; BigDesk@McNairWilson.com

        I won’t read a book if I can’t write and doodle in the margins. Typically I buy used books to glean insights from the thoughts & notes of previous readers. I especially love “ex-library” copies with all their stickers and mysterious, penciled-in numbers.

        My new book, Book No.2 (NOT the title) in my creativity series that “HATCH!” launched, is in the works. I am, AT THIS MOMENT, sitting in Caribou Coffee (Hudson, WI) taking a few days writing retreat after having attended my niece’s wedding last Saturday. I am trying to get Book No.2 out by Christmas. (If, as I did with “HATCH!”, the next book is self-published. I have not made that decision yet so it will not effect my writing.)

        Marty’s next book: I am very excited about! Can’t tell you much (I promised), but it will be chock full of lots more of Marty’s wisdom and insights, on managing the creative process and highly (actively) creative people.

        My new book is how EVERYONE can be aware of, embrace, and reset their own creative spirit. It is based on my TED Talk “Recapturing Your Creative Spirit” — linked on my blogola, http://www.TeaWithMcNair.com

      • McNair,
        I will send you a photo of HATCH! later today. Thanks for the book updates – looking forward to it being released. I will also go to your TED talk for a video “preview”! BTW, I was able to connect Stephen Barr of Cast Member Church to your work, and I know you guys have talked – fabulous! He has a great ministry concept underway, and his vision for a CMC at all Disney parks worldwide is amazing.

        Have a great day!

      • Hey, Bob :: Thanks for the photo of your “well-loved” copy of HATCH! I will be posting it on the HATCH! Facebook site and my HATCH! Pinterest board. Keep me posted on your creativity events with ministry professional. If my presence could ever be a benefit to one of these gatherings …let me know. I will be speaking at a convention at WDW (Swan+Dolphin) in March. Stephen Barr and I hope to connect then. Onward ~ mCnAIR

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