Bob Iger’s Masterclass

Bob Iger is the executive chairman of the Walt Disney Company. In his Masterclass, he discusses his philosophy on leading one of the most prestigious companies in the world.

He begins by detailing his routine. He always takes advantage of the mornings and carves time to sit down and think. If you are a morning person, that’s the time when you have the highest energy. He likes to wake up extremely early, around 4:30 AM, and exercise. He listens to music and thinks about his day. It is a very creative moment for him.

He arrives at the office around 6:30 AM before anyone arrives and makes coffee. Bob lives by the saying: “The early bird catches the worm.” He goes home early, about 5:30 PM, joins his family for dinner, and around 8:00 PM works a little more. He needs alone time without interruption to think better. Every night he tries to reflect on his days and his accomplishments.

Before starting work, he makes a checklist of the day’s tasks. Then, he ponders about the priorities of the company. Usually, the focus of the majority of the companies is how to make the products or services better.

In the 2000’s he was a candidate to become the company’s CEO. He consulted with friends and realized he was in a political campaign. He concluded he had to define the company’s priorities and sell his ideas with a clear message to all board members. At that level, most of your work will involve communications skills, so make sure to develop them.

Before meeting the board members, he developed a strategy centered on creating great content. He found a way to correlate the company’s success with the success of the content creation engine of the company.

Bob set out to improve the content by acquiring Pixar. Unfortunately, the previous CEO did not have a good relationship with Steve Jobs, Pixar’s CEO at that time. His first task as CEO was to repair that relationship, and he did.

He talked to Steve, visited Pixar, and one day he called Steve Jobs and said, “I got a crazy idea.” It was Disney’s buying Pixar. Steve invited him to Apple’s headquarters and wrote down the pros and cons on a whiteboard. The cons outnumber the pros by a lot, and Bob thought the deal would not happen, but Steve said the few pros were much more important than the cons. 

Steve was preoccupied that the acquisition would kill Pixar’s culture. Bob assured him he would not let it happen. He was acquired many times before while working at other companies and knew how to maintain a culture. It is essential to respect the value of the culture.

You need to explain clearly what do you expect from people. Always strive for perfection and improve the product consistently. Have face-to-face meetings with the leaders of the company. The job of a leader is to define, share, reinforce, and repeat the company’s strategic priorities. Clarity is of utmost importance.

You should be keenly aware of the evolution of the market. A company that maintains the status quo in this dynamic world is bound to become obsolete. Gather data of what is happening and take big swings towards the future.

Identify problems and develop solutions. Talk to people at every level of the company, and let them pour their hearts out. Trust your instincts when leading the company. Enable your team to do their best work.

Bob was excellent at making acquisitions. He details how Disney acquired major brands and gives some tips. 

Deals must close quickly. Act fast to prevent the other side from developing cold feet. Leave stuff at the table to make others feel good and focus on closing the deal. The value created from an acquisition must be much larger than what you left on the table. You must fully understand the desires of the other parties. Make the other side feel like a winner. In a deal, you must both win.

Think deeply about brands. The brand must stay true to the core principles but adapt to the change.

A great example is Disney’s princesses. In the past, princesses were not happy unless a prince charming came to defend them. Now with frozen, for example, the princess is helped by her sister, staying strong by themselves.

Be skeptical about data; they always give an incomplete picture. People don’t know what they want. You need to trust your instincts. Listen to your gut.

Immerse yourself in the marketplace. Meet your customers. Interact and ask tons of questions. Listen with focus.

Taking significant risks is the surest way to success. If you fail, fail while daring greatly. Make sure to not withdraw and hide after failure.

Pay attention to new technologies and find a way to help your business grow. Always try to disrupt yourself. Change is inevitable. Experiment at the forefront constantly.

Curiosity is essential for growth. Make sure to separate time for meeting new people, going to new places, and trying new things. Curiosity is the root of innovation.

Give credit when people own their mistakes. However, if they show a massive lack of judgment, do not give them a second chance. Instead, punish harshly and fast.

A great leader is authentic, direct, optimistic, and decisive. However, they don’t take themselves too seriously. Indecisiveness lowers everyone’s morale. Great leaders talk about a brighter future. Optimism is contagious.

Bob was on the board of a company with Warren Buffett, and Warren argued a leader must have: brains, energy, and integrity. If they didn’t have integrity, that would mean a lot of problems.

I highly recommend Masterclass to improve various skills. It is an online platform of curated courses given by the highest performers globally.


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