How did Walt Disney’s management style shape the Disney companies?

Anyone who has had extensive contact with Disney’s wide range of entertainment products knows that there is a common theme running through them all. The Disney brand has been a long-standing part of the Disney product culture, and most of this culture was developed by its founder, Walt Disney. Like most people whose businesses have prospered for decades, its founder had a wide range of talents in many areas.

Probably the first quality you’d think of Walt Disney is his ability to innovate, and that’s pretty obvious. But one that really intrigued me is his leadership ability. He was not one to praise, as he felt that the work that people produced of his should be praised enough as if it were well done. But he had a way of getting a little more out of people. For example, if someone presented him with a project, he would note that it was interesting but then say something like, “now what if…”. His people left more inspired than when he entered.

He was always looking for people who would take risks. This culture never pigeonholed anyone, but their philosophy was that you never know what talents a person has if you never give them a chance. He was not particularly interested in the certification that an employee brought to Disney. He was more interested in people who could teach themselves how to do things.

That quality of taking an idea and making it even better was a great leadership skill. He had a strange way of focusing on solving problems, rather than playing with the problem. And as mentioned above, he wasn’t one for high praise, as his employees usually find out if you like someone else’s second-hand idea.

It’s probably safe to say that Walt Disney was not a financially capable person by any means. He had other people to do that. He was more interested in the audience experience. He fully knew who his audience was and how to talk to them, and like the great innovators throughout history, he anticipated his needs before the audience. His motto was “just do something that people like”.

It’s always interesting to be able to look inside the heads of people who have achieved great things. Of course, there are many different management styles, but it seems to me that Walt Disney was the leader he would really like to work for. And the legacy of him and all forms of entertainment will likely live on forever.

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