10 Inspiring Leadership Tips From Bob Iger, Former Disney CEO

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Learn the qualities of a good leader with these leadership tips and inspiring leadership quotes from former Disney CEO, Bob Iger.

Have courage and be kind.

These were the last words that Cinderella’s mother said to her in Disney’s live-action remake of their classic animated film. They are words that could have come from the lips of Bob Iger, former CEO of Disney, Time’s 2019 businessperson of the year, and Hollywood’s Kindest CEO.

Bob Iger worked as president of ABC Television from 1994 to 1995 and Capital Cities/ABC from 1995 until its acquisition by Disney in 1996. As CEO of The Walt Disney Company from 2005 to 2020, one of its most difficult times, he quickly became iconic for fixing what was broken.

When he took over as CEO of The Walt Disney Company, morale was low and competition from other media companies was intense. Technology was changing faster than at any time in the company’s history.

Under Bob Iger’s 15-year visionary leadership, Disney grew to become one of the largest and most respected media companies in the world. He broadened Disney’s roster of intellectual properties and expanded its presence in international markets.

Iger led the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel Entertainment, Lucasfilm, and the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox. He also helped reinvigorate Walt Disney Animation Studios, and increased investment in its direct-to-consumer businesses, including Disney+ and Hulu.

Today, Disney’s value is nearly five times what it was when Iger took over. In 2014, Forbes ranked Bob Iger as No. 19 on its annual list of The World’s Most Powerful People.

In his memoir, The Ride of a Lifetime, Iger shared the ideas and values he embraced during his fifteen years as CEO while reinventing one of the world’s most beloved companies and inspiring the people who bring the magic to life.

In this bestselling leadership book, his vision came down to three clear ideas: Recommit to the concept that quality matters, embrace technology instead of fighting it, and think bigger – think global – and turn Disney into a stronger brand in international markets.

In his Masterclass on Business Strategy and Leadership, Bob Iger, teaches the leadership skills and strategies he used in reimaging the future of one of the world’s most beloved brands.

He believes you must narrow your focus on developing a successful strategy, and illustrates this point by explaining how he ultimately convinced the Disney board that he should become the next CEO.

Click here to join the Bob Iger MasterClass

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10 Leadership Lessons From Bob Iger, Hollywood’s Kindest CEO

In this article, we share some of Bob Iger’s quotes that demonstrate the leadership lessons of one of the most innovative and successful CEOs and great leaders of our era.

1. Know your strengths

Bob Iger’s past experience includes 25 years at ABC where he served in a number of roles including head of its news division. He began his media career in 1972 as the host of Campus Probe, an Ithaca College television show.

He dreamed of becoming a news anchor while he worked as a weatherman in Ithaca for five months, before shifting his career goals.

I began as a weatherman and I learned very quickly I wasn’t very good at it.

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2. Follow the consumer

One of the qualities of a good leader is to know what the customer wants and give it to them. Iger believes that the riskiest thing we can do is just maintain the status quo.

As he said, “It’s in our best interest to put some of the old rules aside and create new ones and follow the consumer – what the consumer wants and where the consumer wants to go.”

Keeping it simple for the consumer is incredibly dire.

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3. Tell good stories

Disney was built on great storytelling. Iger believes that it’s important to be a creator and that people will always love a good story.

People still love a good story, and I don’t think that will change.

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4. Have courage

Iger believes that one of the qualities of a good leader is to be willing to take risks and place big bets, and that fear of failure destroys creativity.

I just was built with an innate ability to not let fear guide me in how I run my life. It’s not that I’m a daredevil. But I’m just generally not a fearful person. I don’t conduct my life worrying about what could happen, what may happen.

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5. Be fair

Being fair and kind is one of the leadership traits that Iger is known for. As Hollywood executive David Geffen told The New York Times, “Literally, I have never heard one person say a bad thing about him and I have never seen him be mean.”

Iger has been called “Hollywood’s Kindest CEO.” He believes in treating people decently, with empathy, and being accessible to them. A winner of the 2019 Humanitarian Award, he also stated that we must renounce and reject hate in all forms.

I think it is incredibly important to be open and accessible and treat people fairly and look them in the eye and tell them what is on your mind.

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6. Give yourself room to fail

One of Bob Iger’s leadership principles is that creativity and innovation are the heart and soul of the company.

There is no science in creativity. If you don’t give yourself room to fail, you won’t innovate.

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According to the Hollywood Reporter, Iger believes that success itself can be a trap and that it can breed all kinds of behaviors and cause companies to behave in a certain way that isn’t necessarily conducive to achieving more success.

With success comes arrogance and that’s typically the death of success.

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7. Be optimistic

Bob Iger believes that optimism is one of the most important leadership qualities to cultivate because even in the face of difficulty, an optimistic leader will find the path toward the best possible outcome and focus on that, rather than give in to pessimism and blaming.

No one wants to follow a pessimist… You can be skeptical, you can be realistic, but you can’t be cynical. If your boss is Eeyore, do you want to work with someone like that? Oh, bother.

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8. Be decisive

One of Bob Iger’s key leadership traits is decisiveness. He believes that all decisions, no matter how difficult, can be made on a timely basis and does believe in second-guessing decisions.

Iger believes that it is important for people who are given leadership roles to assume that role immediately and that indecisiveness is both wasteful and destructive to morale.

Indecisiveness is both wasteful and destructive to morale.

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9. Refuse to accept mediocrity

According to Carmine Gallo in Inc magazine, one of Iger’s key leadership principles is a five-word mantra that will help you excel as a leader in any field – the relentless pursuit of perfection.

However, this does not mean chasing perfectionism at all costs. What it does mean is “a refusal to accept mediocrity.” According to Iger, too many people make excuses that their work is ‘good enough.’

If you believe that something can be made better, put in the effort to do it.

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10. Use your time effectively

Bob Iger believes that one of the most important leadership skills is to use your time effectively. In his Masterclass on Business Strategy and Leadership, he demonstrates how he makes time for focus and structures his day to make the most of it.

I get up at 4:30 in the morning, seven days a week, no matter where I am in the world.

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Did you enjoy these visionary leadership quotes and leadership tips from former Disney CEO, Bob Iger? Take your leadership skills and entrepreneur skills to the next level with a business MasterClass by the world’s best entrepreneurs, leaders, and champions.

Featured image by Angela George, CC BY-SA 3.0

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