Leadership Lessons from the Vision of Walt Disney, Part One

January 1, 2020.

It was the beginning of a new year, and most would say, a new decade.

Many people, and certainly most leaders, look at the beginning of a new year to look ahead to what might be – to dream.

Since it was a new year, many of those dreams might even be worded as “resolutions” – or goals – for 2020.

Of course, looking back to January 2020 from the vantage point of early 2021, no one on earth could have predicted what the year was going to turn out like.

In spite of that, no, even BECAUSE of the way the year went, the team at Auxano would like you to focus instead on clarity.

Clarity isn’t everything, but it changes everything.

To help you understand clarity from a different perspective, this issue of SUMS Remix departs from our usual format of a common problem statement, with solutions from three books and accompanying action steps.

Instead, we invite you to take a brief look into the lives of two of the most brilliant, creative, and clarity-practicing geniuses: Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.

Though born in different generations, and living vastly different lives, Disney and Jobs have influenced millions of people through the respective outputs of the companies they founded, the Walt Disney Company and Apple.

In this first installment of the four-part series is a brief excerpt from select biography of Walt Disney, followed in the second installment by that of Jobs, giving you background on their excellent of use of “vision” and “communication” respectfully. Then, the third and fourth installments will give you a brief excerpt from other books that illustrate these two concepts, with action steps to help you do the same.

As you look at some specific events of their lives through the lens of “vision” and “communication,” it is our intent that you will be inspired to begin 2021 with clarity.

A QUICK SUMMARYLead Like Walt by Pat Williams

Whether you are building a small business from the ground up or managing a multinational company, you can learn the 7 key traits for leadership success from one of the greatest business innovators and creative thinkers of the 20th century: Walt Disney. Whether you know him as the first to produce cartoons in Technicolor, the mastermind behind the theme park Disneyland, or the founder of the largest entertainment conglomerate, Walt’s story of creativity, perseverance in spite of obstacles, and achieving goals resonates and inspires as much today as it ever has.

Author Pat Williams began studying the life and leadership example of Walt Disney as he struggled to build an NBA franchise, the Orlando Magic. Since he was trying to accomplish a goal similar to so many of Walt’s—starting with nothing and building a dream from the ground up—he realized that Walt could teach him what he needed to know. And indeed he did.

Through Walt Disney’s leadership example, Pat found 7 key leadership traits that all great leaders must possess: Vision, Communication, People Skills, Character, Competence, Boldness, and A Serving Heart. Through never-before-heard Walt stories and pragmatic principles for exceeding business goals, you’ll learn how to build those skills and implement them to be effective in any leadership arena. As you discover the life of this great leader, you’ll realize that no goal is too great and no dream too daring for anyone who leads like Walt.

VISION APPLICATION

To many people today, Walt Disney is not seen as a man, but instead as a nameless, faceless entertainment giant which owns the intellectual properties of the Disney Studios, Pixar Studios, Marvel, LucasFilms, and Fox. While that is all true, the man named Walter Elias Disney rose from humble beginnings to found the studio that bears his name in 1923.

After several years of barely scraping by, and one disastrous setback, Disney put together a string of successes. By the early 1930s, Disney had reached what many industry leaders considered the pinnacle of success for an animated short features studio.

However, Walt Disney wasn’t at the top; he was just getting started.

I dream, I test my dreams against my beliefs, I dare to take risks, and I execute my vision to make those dreams come true. – Walt Disney

In the spring of 1934, thirty-two-year-old Walt Disney decided to bet his studio on an idea everyone around him said was crazy. He was going to produce a full-length animated film.

Walt Disney’s wife Lily and older brother Roy tried to talk Walt out of his dream – but when they saw that he was totally committed to it, they gave up. Once Walt made a decision, no one could change his mind.

Within days, Walt gathered forty of his top animators. Opening his wallet, he handed each man some cash, then said, “I want you fellas to go have dinner and relax a little. Then come back to the studio. I have a story to tell you.”

The animators walked out of the studio, buzzing among themselves. After dinner, they gathered in a recording stage where Walt had set up folding chairs in a semicircle. The room was dark, like a movie theater, except at the very front. There stood Walt, under a single light bulb, bouncing on his heels, a secretive smile on his face. Once everyone was present, Walt began to tell the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Walt didn’t merely tell the story. He performed it, acting out every part. He became every character. His eyebrows arched, and his features twisted into those of the evil Queen. He tilted his face toward the bare light bulb, and its soft glow transformed his fact into that of Snow White. Each character had a distinct voice and personality.

Reach the end of the tale, Walt paused – then said, “That is going to be our first feature-length animated film.” If Walt had said those words at the beginning of his presentation, his artists would have thought he was crazy. Everybody knew there was no audience for an all-animated feature.

But after watching Walt act out the story before their eyes, they believed it was not only possible, but practically an accomplished fact! Walt had the whole picture in his head – all they had to do was animate it.

Pat Williams, Lead Like Walt

A NEXT STEP

Not all visionaries are leaders, but all leaders are visionaries. You can’t lead people without a vision of where you are taking them.

What is your dream, your vision?

According to author Pat Williams, great leaders are people of vision. Without a vision, how will you know what success looks like? How will you know how to get there? Your vision is your definition of success.

Look at the quote by Walt Disney above: “I dream, I test my dreams against my beliefs, I dare to take risks, and I execute my vision to make those dreams come true.”

Author Pat Williams breaks the quote down as follows:

  • “I dream.” Walt began with a vision, a dream of the future.
  • “I test my dreams against my beliefs.” Walt made sure his vision was consistent with his beliefs, his core values, and his integrity.
  • “I dare to take risks.” He acted boldly, betting on himself to win.
  • “I execute my vision to make those dreams come true.” He focused all his energies, and those of his organization, on turning his dreams into reality.

At Auxano, we have developed some tools to help you assess your vision and make time to reflect, discern and articulateDownload the Vision Frame overview as a litmus test for your vision. If you cannot answer all five questions of the irreducible minimums of clarity, then schedule one day per month to work on your vision.

Learn more about the Vision Frame.


Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

>> Purchase prior issues of SUMS Remix here<<

Pursue Clarity in Your Daily Life

How can we equip everyone who calls our church home to live with a deep sense of purpose?

God created you with one-of-a-kind potential and placed you on earth for a specific purpose. Due to the busyness of life, you’ve likely never identified your unique calling in a way that brings life-changing clarity. Most haven’t and like a distinct echo, the promise of a vision-guided life remains illusive, drowning under the demands of life.

Your divine design—God’s design for your life—is more knowable than you realize. You are God’s workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he has prepared in advance, that you should walk in them. With the right tools, you can discover your life vision and align your life vocation. You can and should know your Life Younique—your God-given identity and your God-inspired dreams. Most importantly, you can discern and design the practical next steps to get there.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Visioneering, by Andy Stanley

Everybody ends up somewhere in life.
Wouldn’t you like to end up somewhere on purpose?

What breaks your heart?
What keeps you up at night?
What could be that should be?

Andy Stanley believes these questions are breadcrumbs that lead to the discovery of personal vision. With down-to-earth practicality, Andy extracts principles from the story of Nehemiah to help you discover your purpose in life.

Visioneering includes helpful exercises and time-tested ideas for visionary decision-making, personal growth, and leadership at home and at work. Catch a glimpse of God’s incredible vision for your life, relationships, and business—and discover the passion to follow it.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

What is clarity really about? How can pursuing clarity help us discover our purpose in life?

The concept of clarity means being free from anything that obscures, blocs, pollutes, or darkens. If you have clarity, you see things simply in an understandable and precise way.

Clarity will help you make your life direction unquestionable.

Honoring God involves discovering his picture or vision of what our lives could and should be. Glorifying God involves discovering what we could and should accomplish.

We were created and re-created with his purposes in mind. And until we discover his purpose – and follow through – there will always be a hole in our soul.

As Christians, we do not have the right to take our talents, abilities, experiences, opportunities, and education and run off in any direction we please. We lost that right at Calvary. But then, why would we dream of such a thing? God has a vision for your life. What could possibly be more fulfilling than that?

At the same time, we have no right to live visionless lives either. If God – think about it – if God has a vision for what you are to do with your allotment of years, you had better get on with it. What a tragedy to miss it. Missing out on God’s plan for our lives must be the greatest tragedy this side of eternity.

Your uniqueness and individuality will reach its pinnacle in the context of your pursuit of God’s plan for your life. Manmade visions all begin to look alike after a while. Unless you discover God’s unique vision for your future, your life may very well be a rerun.

Andy Stanley, Visioneering

A NEXT STEP

Andy Stanly, in “Visioneering,” says that “Vision gives significance to the otherwise meaningless details of our lives.” To further develop this thought, he wants you to realize how vision weaves four things into the fabric of our daily lives.

Reflect on each of the areas below.

Passion – vision is always accompanied by strong emotion; the clearer the vision, the stronger the emotion. How is your vision being expressed in powerful and compelling emotions?

Motivation – vision provides motivation. In what areas of your life is vision providing motivation on a regular basis?

Direction – vision sets a direction for our lives. How is your vision prioritizing your values and providing direction to your life?

Purpose – vision gives you a reason to get up and show up. How is your vision providing purpose in your daily life?

Network with 2-3 other staff members who live in close geographic proximity. Ask them these questions around their calling and process together how God might call you into greater collaboration together to reach your community for Christ.

Except taken from SUMS Remix 75-3, issued September, 2018


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “excerpt” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt.

>>Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

Leaders Know How to Make Simplicity Clearer

Many leaders spend their lives driving decisions, directing resources, and deploying people without the vantage point of substantial clarity.

If clarity is so beneficial, why do we find it in short supply with most leaders? Every leader must contend with clarity gaps and complexity factors. To make matters worse, the two biggest contributors to clarity and complexity in any organization are failure and success. But all is not lost; you can lead with consistent clarity.

Being clear as a leader means being simple, understandable, and exact. The leader helps others see and understand reality better.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Why Simple Wins, by Lisa Bodell

Imagine what you could do with the time you spend writing emails every day. Complexity is killing companies’ ability to innovate and adapt, and simplicity is fast becoming the competitive advantage of our time. Why Simple Wins helps leaders and their teams move beyond the feelings of frustration and futility that come with so much unproductive work in today’s corporate world to create a corporate culture where valuable, essential, meaningful work is the norm. By learning how to eliminate redundancies, communicate with clarity, and make simplification a habit, individuals and companies can begin to recognize which activities are time-sucks and which create lasting value. Lisa Bodell’s simplification method has several unique principles: Simplification is a skill that’s available to us all, yet very few leaders use it. Simplification is the right thing to do–for our customers, for our company, and for each other. Operating with simplification as our core business model will make it easier to be respectful of each other’s time. Simplification drives culture, and culture in turn drives employee engagement, customer relations, and overall productivity.

This book is inspired by Bodell’s passion for eliminating barriers to innovation and productivity. In it, she explains why change and innovation are so hard to achieve–and it’s not what you might expect. The reality is this: we spend our days drowning in mundane tasks like meetings, emails, and reports. These are often self-created complexities that prevent us from getting to the meaningful work that truly matters. Using simple stories and techniques, Why Simple Wins shows that by using simplicity as an operating principle, we can eliminate the busy work that puts a chokehold on us every day, and instead spend time on the work that we value.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Finding clarity requires navigating a tunnel of chaos, the point where deeper confusion and complexity are experienced first, before clarity can emerge. The tunnel of chaos make take hours, days, or months and it may involve much time in prayer, conversation, questioning, reflection, confession, and challenge, all with a spirit of relentless transparency.

The resolve to navigate this tunnel of chaos cannot be overestimated. The danger lies in the fact that there are two kings of simplicity. The first is meaningless simplicity, where the leader marches in place to a simplicity that is trite and valueless. Meaningless simplicity causes many leaders to give in and copy what someone else is doing.

On the other hand, getting to the other side of complexity finds you in a place of life redefined and rereleased. Leonardo da Vinci said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

Many leaders can get stuck in between, bogged down in complexity. These leaders don’t feel stuck, because they are living with a lot of good ministry – but it is good ministry that is the enemy of the best that the church ultimately can become. 

It’s time to make simplicity clearer; and complexity too.

Something that’s properly simplified is:

As minimal as possible: Simple things reduce the number of steps, pages, features, functions, sign-offs, requirements, and other hurdles required to get something accomplished. There’s nothing extra, but at the same time, there’s enough to get the job done.

As understandable as possible: Simple things are defined by clear, straightforward language. They are comprehensible to someone who doesn’t already have expertise in the subject at hand. Simple things could easily be replicated by a novice – even if they often require some common sense.

As repeatable as possible: Simple things can be scaled or replicated. They aren’t one-offs. They aren’t customized. It should be easy for someone to do them over and over again.

As accessible as possible: Simple things are made available and transparent to as many audiences as possible. Outsiders can make use of them with as few gatekeepers as possible.

Complexity, then, is the lack of these four elements. It’s a process, product, communication, or procedure that isn’t minimal, understandable, repeatable, and accessible as possible.

Lisa Bodell, Why Simple Wins

A NEXT STEP

Albert Einstein believed that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” And therein lies the problem that many organizations face when they remove too much information in the effort to make things simpler: the remaining information becomes useless.

The trick is striking an appropriate balance between details (complexity) on one hand, and the need to simplify on the other.

To help develop that balance, follow the outline below developed by Why Simple Wins author Lisa Bodell to help make simplification happen.

  1. Awareness – the journey to simplification begins with recognizing the toll taken by complexity. To help develop this awareness, choose a ministry event or activity that you feel has become complicated. On a chart tablet, list the name of the activity with your team, and then write down items that you team can identify that cause this complication.
  2. Identification – once aware of the complexity, write down items that your team can identify that cause this complication.
  3. Prioritization – use a “time versus value” equation to evaluate the opportunities you identified in the previous step. List which complications impede your progress the most, which problems will be hardest to eliminate, and those in which you can get the most traction toward simplifying.
  4. Execution – once the opportunities are identified, execute them by moving forward in real time.
  5. Habit Formation – simplification is never finished – it has to become a part of the way you operate

Gather your team and take 10 minutes to decide on one ministry or area that needs simplification. Next, using the above filters, spend 80 minutes discussing and then commit to three simplification steps in the next 14 days. Repeat throughout each ministry or program, as needed.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 74-1, issued September 2017.


 

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. Each Wednesday on 27gen I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt there.

 

> Purchase SUMS Remix here<<

 

 

Clarity is a Prerequisite for Compelling Leadership

Bob Johansen, author of “Leaders Make the Future”, states that clarity is one of ten leadership skills that leaders will need in the upcoming times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity.

Here’s a brief recap on clarity:

  • Clarity requires inner strength and discipline: leaders, even when immersed in a world of ambiguity and confusion, emerge with forward momentum.
  • Clarity requires great self-knowledge: leaders must first understand who they are becoming, and how to get there, before leading others.
  • Clarity requires external engagement: leaders communicate with inspiration and a call to action that attracts others to follow.
  • Clarity requires flexibility: leaders are clear about their destination, but flexible about the journey.

Clarity1

Leaders understand why people crave simple and easy answers, but should provide clarity without introducing false hope. Navigating the maze between hope and hopelessness, leaders with clarity will find a way out.

How are you relentlessly pursuing clarity in your leadership role?

Four Words to Use Every Day

Most of the time we give ourselves more credit than is due for our conversations. When those conversations are intended to move the listener to take an action, we need to remember the following:

The significance of what we are saying is not always self-evident, let alone shocking and/or awe-inspiring.

It’s time for clarity, in two words:

So what?

Keep asking the question till you (and your audience) are satisfied that you are both clear on what is being communicated.

But don’t stop there: information without application leads to stagnation (a favorite quote of my pastor, Steven Furtick).

It’s time for transformation, in two more words:

Now what?

Your audience may have information, but have you given them reason to act on it?

Today.

Clarity is Audible

When you read or hear the word “clarity”, the odds are that your next thoughts have something to do with vision, imagery, or similar metaphors.

Will Mancini, author of “Church Unique” and founder of the consulting group Auxano, refers to himself as a “clarity evangelist.” One of the central tenants of his work is clarity, and he uses powerful visual images to illustrate.

The concepts of clarity are a regular part of my conversations with churches. In the last month, I have talked about clarity with large and small churches; rural and urban churches; traditional and contemporary churches. Clarity transcends all these groupings as a necessary ingredient of successful churches.

In the midst of all this conversation about clarity, a comment was made to me that literally stopped me in my tracks:

Clarity is audible, too

This astute and wise church leader was telling me that our words – verbally – were very important in his context, maybe even more so than images and other visual elements. He demonstrated this the next day in a powerful, passionate sermon that was a masterpiece of the spoken word. He schooled me though the use of:

  • The dynamics of voice
  • Volume
  • Inflection
  • Pacing and tempo
  • Eliminating verbal graffiti

Leaders who communicate with clarity radiate passion, conviction, and enthusiasm – and people respond.

Got Clarity?

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. – the Cheshire Cat

Where’s your red X?
You know, the spot that says “You are here.”

Looking for the shortest distance between Point A and Point B?

The answers to the above questions aren’t in Will Mancini’s Visual Summary to his book “Church Unique,” but you will be able to grasp the process that just might answer the tough questions you’re facing today.

Take a look.

Download the free e-book.

Start out on the journey…

…today!

If you are the Exponential Conference today and would like a free copy of The Visual Summary, show this post or a Tweet related to it to the guys at the Auxano booth near the Worship Center entrance (while supplies last).

Four Disciplines of Organizational Health

An organization doesn’t become healthy in a linear, tidy fashion.

– Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage

Patrick Lencioni’s latest book The Advantage is a comprehensive, practical guide, covering many of the topics introduced in one of his eight business fable books. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that this is just a repackaging – The Advantage goes far beyond that. In it you will find some very practical, hands-on tools to help your organization become healthy.

Previous posts here and here introduced the book. The central theme of the book is today’s topic: The Four Disciplines Model. Here is Lencioni’s overview of the Four Disciplines.

Discipline 1: Build a Cohesive Leadership Team

An organization simply cannot be healthy if the people who are chartered with running it are not behaviorally cohesive in five fundamental ways. In any kind of organization, from a corporation to a department within that corporation, from a small, entrepreneurial company to a church or a school, dysfunction and lack of cohesion at the top inevitably lead to a lack of health throughout.

Discipline 2: Create Clarity

In addition to being behaviorlly cohesive, the leadership team of a healthy organization must be intellectually aligned and committed to the same answers to six simple but critical questions. There can be no daylight between leaders around these fundamental issues.

Discipline 3: Overcommunicate Clarity

Once a leadership team has established behavioral cohesion and created clarity around the answers to those questions, it must then communicate those answers to the rest of the organization clearly, repeatedly, enthusiastically, and repeatedly (that’s no typo). When it comes to reinforcing clarity, there is no such thing as too much communication.

Discipline 4: Reinforce Clarity

Finally, in order for an organization to remain healthy over time, its leaders must establish a few critical, non-bureaucratic systems to reinforce clarity in every process that involves people. Every policy, every program, every activity should be designed to remind your team what is really most important.

I hope today’s post and the previous two have enticed you to get The Advantage. The book certainly stands alone, but there is also a great deal of web content available on organizational health.

What are you waiting on?

The health of your organization is at stake!