NOTE: Continuing reflections on the replacement of Bob Chapek, Disney CEO, with Bob Iger, former CEO.
Tucked inside the entrance gates to Disney’s California Adventure is an iconic reproduction of the Carthay Circle Theater in Los Angeles. One of the most important theaters in the Golden Age of Movies during the Twenties and Thirties, it represents the premier of a tremendous achievement by Walt Disney – the first full length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Though we now view Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as an animation classic, in the mid-1930’s the idea of a full-length “cartoon” was unheard of. Walt Disney took one of the biggest risks of his career, putting almost all of his resources – both business and personal – into the film. Called “Disney’s Folly” by most of Hollywood (and more than a few inside Disney Studios itself), the film opened to critical and financial success, paving the way for Disney to continue expanding his creative genius.
With critics becoming more vocal, Walt Disney knew he would have to inspire his team of artists and writers as never before.
Ken Anderson, Art Director for Snow White, remembered it this way:
When we walked into the soundstage it was all dark so we could save money. There was just a light on the floor in front of the seats. About forty of us sat there and we got all settled.
Walt came down in front of us and said, “I’m going to tell you a story. It’s been with me all my life. I’ve lived it!”
He started in and told the story of Snow White better than we put it on the screen. From eight o’clock to eleven thirty, he portrayed all the parts. We were spellbound. He had to go forward and back and forward and back in order to get it all in. He became the queen, became the huntsman, became the dwarfs, and even Snow White.
In front of us, he wasn’t embarrassed to do anything. He became all of those creatures. The guy changed right in front of us.
He had enormous talent as an actor. He could really sell things. And he sold the story to us in such a way that we could’t believe our ears. He so thrilled us with the story that we were just carried away. We came away from that meeting know that it could be done, even though no one else had ever done it.
One animator later claimed, “that one performance lasted us three years. Whenever we’d get stuck, we’d remember how Walt did it on that night.”
The rest is history…
Disney history, that is!
It’s also a telling story of why there will never be another Walt Disney, and why even the best intentions of Bob Iger will not meet that mark.
Acclaimed Disney expert Jim Korkis tells the stories of what Walt did right, what he did wrong, and how you can follow in his footsteps. Drawing upon his unparalleled knowledge of the Disney Company and its legacy, Korkis distills the essence of Walt Disney’s leadership principles into an exciting narrative of popular history and self-help.
You’ll read not just about what Walt did but why he did it, and how you can apply the lessons to your own life or your own enterprise.
Who’s the Leader of the Club will teach you how to lead like Walt. You don’t have to be producing animated films or running theme parks to benefit from the innovative but common-sense approaches Walt Disney took to every challenge. In just a few hours, you’ll learn what it took Walt a lifetime to perfect, and you’ll learn how to put it to work for you.
Just as important, Korkis will teach you how not to lead like Walt. No leader is perfect, and Walt had traits that cost him, such as his berating employees in public, never praising an employee for good work, and trying to get the best out of people by pitting them against one another. Despite these flaws, Walt inspired great personal loyalty and devotion. Korkis explains why.
Packed with lessons, anecdotes, and quotes, Who’s the Leader of the Club? comes with all you need to master the Disney way, start telling your story, and become the leader of your club!
About the Author
Jim Korkis grew up in Glendale, CA, immediately adjacent to Burbank, the home of Disney Studios. Eager to learn about animation, as a young boy he wrote down the names of Disney staff members from the credits of Walt Disney’s weekly television series, and proceeded to look them up in his local phone book. When Korkis called them up to ask about Disney animation, he was often invited to their homes and spent hours enthralled by their stories.
As they recommended him to other Disney staff members, he developed a network of animators, Imagineers, and others who had personally know Walt Disney. As the years progressed, he even developed a friendship with Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s oldest daughter, who was supportive of his work and shared personal insights about her father.
In the mid-90’s, Korkis moved to Orlando Florida and began working with the Disney Institute and Disney University, meeting many executives who had worked with Walt Disney and been trained by him.
As he had done in California, he listened and took extensive notes about their stories and experiences.
The leadership lessons of Walt Disney contained in Who’s the Leader of the Club created an organization respected and admired around the world. Unfortunately, these lessons have not been officially taught at Disney University to new leaders for well over two decades.
Korkis felt it was time to share them again, making every effort to use Walt Disney’s words as well as the words of those how had experienced him in action to help elaborate and describe the concepts.
It is Korkis’ desire that his book will prove to be an informative workbook on Walt’s leadership philosophy as well as an entertaining glimpse into a different perspective of his life.
Here is a summary of Korkis’ seven lessons of leadership lived out by Walt Disney, along with a quote by Walt for each of the seven:
Know the Story
A leader’s vision is most effectively presented in the format of a story, the most powerful communication in the world for centuries.
The Wisdom of Walt: It is a curious thing that the more the world shrinks because of electronic communications the more timeless becomes the province of the storytelling entertainer.
Share the Story
In order to accomplish his vision, a leader must passionately share the complete story with everyone involved and actively encourage contributions to strengthen the story.
The Wisdom of Walt: I’m a storyteller. Of all the things I’ve done, I’d like to be remembered as a storyteller.
Take a (Calculated) Risk
So that the organization can avoid stagnation, a leader must occasionally take calculated risks to expand into new areas.
The Wisdom of Walt: To some people, I am kind of a Merlin who takes lots of crazy chances, but rarely makes mistakes. I’ve made some bad ones, but fortunately, the successes have come along fast enough to cover up the mistakes. When you go to bat as many times as I do, you’re bound to get a good average. That’s why I keep my projects diversified.
Make ‘em Laugh
It is the responsibility of the leader to establish a tone in the work place that allows people to feel safe and comfortable and to be able to smile and laugh.
The Wisdom of Walt: In bad times and good, I have never lost my sense of humor.
Eager to Learn
It is important for a leader to gather information from a variety of sources and encourage his team to do the same.
The Wisdom of Walt: We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.
A leader needs to know, understand, and listen to his team in order to lead them to success.
The Wisdom of Walt: You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place in the world, but it requires people to make the dream a reality.
Live the Story
The most important quality a leader can have is integrity, demonstrating by his words and actions that he stands for what he says he believes.
The Wisdom of Walt: Our heritage and ideals, our codes and standards – the things we live by and teach our children – are preserved or diminished by how freely we exchange ideas and feelings.
Still to come:
Succeeding as the new CEO of the Walt Disney Company was not going to be easy.