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What Leaders Can Learn From Walt Disney

On the anniversary of Walt Disney's death, this article is meant to help all of us who are leaders learn from the man behind the mouse.

On December 15, 1966 Walt Disney died. His legacy and vision have lived on and expanded in amazing ways in the 48 years since his death. Walt has long been one of my business heroes – after all, look at what he created, and all done with the fabulous outcome of helping people smile, laugh and create lifelong memories. To commemorate his life, this post is meant to help all of us who are leaders learn from the man behind the mouse.

To do this, I will just use Walt’s words and connect them to important leadership lessons, and leave you with a question to ponder and challenge yourself with for each one.

When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionably.

If you want your team to believe in a goal, a purpose or anything else, you must first believe. When you believe at the level that Walt is describing, you create a natural attraction to you – just look at Walt. What do you believe in at the Disney level?

All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.

This is perhaps Walt’s most famous quotation, and he certainly made his share of dreams come true. I’d bet that Walt’s focus, if we could ask him about this though, would be at least as much on the courage idea. If your dreams or goals are big, you must be willing to open yourself up to ridicule and questioning – in other words, courage is required. In what part of your work do you need to be more courageous to lead more effectively?

She believed in dreams all right, but she believed in doing something about them.†(about Cinderella)

I love this quotation because it completes the big idea from the first two – Have a deep belief, dream, have courage, and then get to work. If we as leaders will do this by example, our teams and organizations can change the work, just like Walt’s did. Are you taking action on your dreams and goals?

And here are two about Disneyland . . .

I first saw the site for Disneyland back in 1953. In those days it was all flatland, no rivers, no mountains, no castles, or rocket ships – just orange groves and a few acres of walnut trees.

Disneyland will never be completed; it will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.

Walt’s vision was clear – from the start and far into the future. Many stories have been written about Walt trying to get investors for Disneyland as he walked them through the orange groves talking about rivers and castles and more. Walt already saw it – it was completely clear to him. As a leader, sometimes we will see what others can’t . Do you have your vision? Are you willing to share it even if others can’t yet see it?

Around here we don’t look backwards for very long . . . we keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things because we are curious . . . and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.

We must look back, and Walt agrees, but he suggests focusing far more time be spent looking forward than gazing in the rearview mirror. This idea also focuses on curiosity. When we are curious, it is easier, more fun and more productive to look forward. How curious are you?

The more you like yourself the less you are like anyone else, which makes you unique.

There is no perfect way to lead; but the closest way is to continue striving to become your best self. †As we learn how to use our unique strengths, we have a chance to become the leader we are capable of being. And that doesn’t happen by trying to lead like someone else, but by learning from others and leading as who we are. How much do you like yourself and how comfortable are you with leading in your own unique way?

A man should never neglect his family for business.

I’d add woman to Walt’s idea. This may not be what you think about when you think of Walt and what he built, making it even more important to share with you. Walt, like all of us, was human, and I’m sure his family/business balance wasn’t always perfect. But if a guy that created and built what he built could focus on family and not just businessHealth Fitness Articles, I'm sure you can too. How much time and focus have you invested in your family this week?

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Kevin Eikenberry is a leadership expert and the Chief Potential Officer of The Kevin Eikenberry Group, a learning consulting company that helps Clients reach their potential through a variety of training, consulting and speaking services. You can learn more about him and a special offer on his newest book, Remarkable Leadership: Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at a time, at .

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