Disney Leadership ‘F’ Words

Walt Disney Leadership Lessons

It isn’t news that Disney is one of the most recognized brands in the world, and it didn’t get there overnight. Walt Disney’s tenacious leadership established a foundation of creating magical memories for families around the world. His passion for service didn’t stop at the Guests visiting his parks, or the viewers of his movies. He expressed deep interest in the people he worked with, and that worked for him. By creating internal personal and professional development opportunities, Walt recognized that anyone can have the next great idea. His career was an adventure in itself. I sometimes imagine the voice of Rod Serling giving me a biographical tour of Walt, every time I’m reading an interesting account of Mr. Disney.

Walt Disney’s leadership is best represented in 3 ‘F’ words.


“Leadership implies a strong faith or belief in something.”Click-to-tweet this leadership quote
– Walt Disney

Walt was resilient in his work. His first big creation was Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in 1927, staring in Trolley Troubles. Walt signed a deal with Charles Mintz, and Mintz brokered a deal with Universal, which profited greatly from the 26 cartoons produced by Walt’s team. That was just the beginning. Walt later found out, in 1928, that he no longer owned the rights to Oswald, and Mintz secretly signed many of Walt’s character artists to continue Oswald cartoons in his own studio.
With resounding diligence and tenacity to his vision of entertaining families around the world, he put his pen to paper on a long train ride. Mickey Mouse was born, with the help of Ub Iwerks, and voiced by Walt Disney himself.
His faith in the vision, and in his people was demonstrated when he later invited Ub to join his team in 1940 and gave Ub free reign over all his resources. Ub’s work is still experienced, but often not recognized, every single day in Disneyland Park® in California; the illusions in The Haunted Mansion, and animatronics for Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Pirates of the Caribbean.


“A man should never neglect his family for business.”Click-to-tweet this leadership quote
– Walt Disney

A family man at heart, Walt would frequently take his daughters to the carousel at Griffith Park in Los Angeles. Sitting on the park benches, next to other parents watching their children play: Walt sparked a dream. He wanted to create a “Mickey Mouse Park” near his Burbank, Calif. studios where families can play together. Entertaining families was Walt’s central value, and it is still very centered to the vision of the company today.

“Almost everyone warned us that Disneyland would be a Hollywood spectacular—a spectacular failure. But they were thinking about an amusement park, and we believed in our idea—a family park where parents and children could have fun—together.”
– Walt Disney


“We keep moving forward–opening up new doors and doing new thingsClick-to-tweet this leadership quote–because we’re curious. And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths. We’re always exploring and experimenting.”
– Walt Disney

It was Walt’s knack for innovation that has inspired many of his park guests of today. Although many know the Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, at the Disneyland Resort®, as the first completed installation of Audio-Animatronics in 1963, Walt envisioned the use of these animatronic innovations years before Disneyland broke ground. Imagineers Roger Broggie and Wathel Rogers convinced Walt to use the mechanical devices in larger applications. This is when Walt’s imagination began to run wild with ideas. One of those ideas was to have a Chinese man, like Confucius, in front of a Chinese restaurant at the Disneyland Park. Guests would be able to ask questions and receive a response of wisdom. This idea wasn’t adapted into the park how Walt wanted, but something very similar is still there today. Abraham Lincoln, of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland Park®, first made his appearance at the World’s Fair in New York in 1964 and 1965.
Walt’s inspirational innovative vision for the future is what keeps the Walt Disney Company® steamrolling new technology and receiving awards from the Themed Entertainment Association (Thea), and most recently received a Thea Classic Award for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Would you like to see more leadership lessons by Walt Disney and Disney Parks? What leadership lessons or inspirations have you experienced by Disney?

Share your thoughts in the comments below and follow me on Twitter at @AlexGaskins

Source: Oswald The Lucky Rabbit 85th Anniversary
Source: Mickey Mouse Co-Creator Ub Iwerks
Source: Disneyland History
Source: From Dream To Reality: Disneyland Starts 60 Years Ago
Source: Disney Parks Attractions Honored with THEA Awards
Source: Early Days of Audio-Animatronics by Walt Disney

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