Walt Disney’s Leadership Style Essay

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Whenever people interact in the organization, many factors come into play towards improving an organizations effectiveness. There are factors that influence the behavior of the employees in any organization. Behaviors such i.e. commitment, cooperation, satisfaction, decision-making, motivation, competitiveness, turnover ….. Etc, all impacts greatly the effectiveness of any organization.

Leadership has sometimes been described as taking people to a place that they would not normally go to on their own. Once a sound strategic planning process has determined what that place should be it is the leader’s prime and fundamental responsibility to assure that there is cultural alignment with the vision and that the full resources of the organization are effectively brought to bear to achieve that destination.

These definitions tell us that leadership is a way of focusing & motivating a group to enable them to achieve their aims. The leader’s influence is non-coercive, which means that followers must consent to be influenced, which lead to that leadership is conferred from below, not above as leadership. Also leadership is a goal-directed activity. Followers consent to a leader exercising influence with a view to achieving something.

This research would be a great opportunity for the researcher to get a better knowledge about the leader’s influence on people and guided through their Endeavour to achieve organization objective.

This report is about one of the most famous leaders who’s name is known by everyone since childhood. This leader has created one of the leading entertainment businesses in the world. Walt Disney is the founder of Walt Disney Production which had a famous influence in the entertainment field in the 20th century.

This report will analyze Mr. Walt Disney’s leadership qualities and style. The report starts with a literature review on leadership, Walt Disney biography, his leadership qualities and styles, comments on his style and a conclusion to sum up the finding.

The purpose of this study is to:

To study the literature on leadership styles in organizations.

To analysis the style and the role of leadership of Walt Disney and its effectiveness in reaching the organization objectives.

To draw conclusions of what lessons we learn from Walt Disney case about leadership.

Review of Literature

Leadership is the process of influencing others to work willingly and to the best of their capabilities towards the goals of the leader. (Gallagher, K, Rose, E, McClelland, B, Reynolds, J and Tombs, S, 1997, P527)

The word “leadership” has two common “uses” meanings:

(A) It can be used to describe a process, in which non-coercive influence is used to direct and coordinate the activities of a group toward its objectives. (Rollinson, Broadfield, & Edaward 1998).

(B) To express the idea that follower perceives that a person has certain attributes or characteristics which enable him or her to exert influence over them (Rollinson, Broadfield, & Edaward 1998).

In modern society the words of leader and leadership carry a great deal of prestige. Thus many managers lay claim to being leaders, and some probably believe the position they occupy confer the mantle of leadership upon them. It is important to examine whether leadership and management are synonymous; are they, for example, just different words that express the same idea?

The success of any group in any organization can be challenged by the effectiveness of the leader and his/her leadership qualities, knowledge & leadership style.

Leaders can be found in any group by default. Groups they tend to have leaders, and it belief that leadership is one of the -if not the most important- factors which determines whether a group, an organization, or even a nation will be successful granted a degree of power to influence subordinate behavior. An important leadership role is to manage and lead so the Leaders make speeches, produce written communications, listen and chat to colleagues, observe and respond to the needs and otherwise communicate for most their time in the organization.

Leaders also interact with the external environment, with suppliers, markets, even competitors. What is more, leaders communicate in far more than words. For example leadership uses symbolic communication as part of a change management strategy.

In a simple context, in organizations we can view leadership in: “that the employees are willing to work in a more committed way with someone they view as a leader”.

The important of leadership

Leadership is a concern for all of us. (We all share in the responsibility to contribute effectively.)

Leadership is viewed and valued differently by various disciplines and cultures. (A multi-disciplinary approach gives better understanding of leadership.)

Conventional views of leadership are changing. (The rapid pace of change requires new ways of relating to problems.)

Leadership can be exhibited in many ways. (It is adapted to varying situations.)

Leadership qualities and skills can be learned and developed. (Leaders are made, not born.)

Leadership committed to ethical action is needed to encourage change and social responsibility. (Leaders must apply the highest possible standards of ethical conduct.)

Leaders vs. Managers

It is an important to the researcher to understand and defined the leader in the chosen Organization. Thus, to understanding the different between the manager and the leaders will help to focus in the right person once the interview taking place.

Managers usually have goals or objective to achieve, and are expected to do this by the appropriate use of resources at their disposal. So mangers tend to adopt impersonal or passive attitudes towards goals. In order to get people to accept solutions, the manager needs continually to co-ordinate and balance in order to compromise conflicting values. In relationship with other people, managers maintain a low level of emotional involvement. Managers see themselves more as conservators and regulators of the existing order of affairs with which they identify, and from which they gain rewards.

Leaders, they adopt a more personal and active attitude towards goals. Leader creates excitement in work and develops choices that give substance to images that excite people. Leaders have empathy with other people and give attention to what events and actions mean. Leader work in but don’t belong to, the organization. Their sense of identity doesn’t depend upon membership or work roles and they search out opportunities of change.

So the important to organization come in a leader can have a strong influence on the behavior and performance of group members. While influence is a form of power, it is much more subtle from control than the naked use authority. Where leadership is exercised, followers willingly their own subordination, and because the whole situation is partly their idea they are more likely to be committed to performing well.

Leadership Styles

Leadership Styles is the manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people, there are normally three styles of leadership:

Authoritarian or autocratic: when leaders sets directions and motivate people by reward and punishment.

Predicative or democratic: when people are involved in decision making and leaders become more relation oriented.

Delegative or free Reigan: when leaders delegate powers and people are more responsible.

Walt Disney Biography:

Walter Elias Disney is an American business leader who brought to the world the most famous entertainment companies in 20th century. He was born on December 5, 1901 in Illinois in Chicago in USA.

His dream started when he loved drawing while he used to live in a farm and worked in selling candies and newspapers. After his coming back from the World War I in France, he worked at the Pesemen-Rubin Art Studio. Walter met Ubbe Iwwerks and they put up their own company “Iwerks- Disney” in 1920. The company collapsed eventually and they moved to work with Kansas City Film Ad.

In 1922, he formed Laugh-O-Gram Films where he produced short cartoons and started producing Alice’s Wonderland. Before ending his production of Alice’s Wonderland, his company got bankrupt and he moved to Hollywood seeking direction job with no luck. He convinced his brother to finance the new company, Disney Brothers, and hired more people in 1925.

The big success happened when they created Mickey Mouse which was his popular cartoon character and Disney regained from the loss of the Oswald character rights and his staff in 1928. He even got an Academy Award in 1932.

Disney did well in the 1930s especially when he started producing full length features such as now White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Three Little Pigs. However, he faced a big break during the World War II. In the late 1940s, he start recovering when he start using Technicolor and sound scores in his work. In that period he started his vision for an amusement park which came true 1955.

Walter Disney died in 1966 of lung cancer. His brother continued his dream and opened the Magic Kingdom in 1971.

Walt Disney Achievements:

Walt Disney is one of the largest media corporations worldwide. It is publicly traded in the New York Stock Exchange. The company has four main divisions: studio entertainment, media networks, parks and resorts and consumer products. The company owns ABC TV network, broadcast TV stations and lots of radio stations.

The studio entertainment movies produced by Disney represent the meaning of family entertainment. Mickey Mouse, Snow White, the Seven Dwarfs, etc. are famous movies created by Disney and become legends for every kids and even adults.

Disney Parks and Resorts is the place when you find all Disney characters. The company owns eleven theme parks in three continental, operates 35 resorts and two cruise ships.

Disney’s media network has arms in television, radio and internet industries. It includes television networks (ABC), radio channels, TV shows, etc.

Disney consumer products started in 1929 which is mainly different products represent Disney characters in different sectors such as food & beverages, toys, home décor, books, electronics, interactive games, fine arts, etc.

Walt Disney Leadership Analysis:

Walter Disney was so ambitious and enthusiasm to make his dream and the drop-backs he faced didn’t stop him putting more effort into it. He was hard worker, visionary and devoted.

As being creative is one of the main success factors in such businesses. Therefore, Walter had a passion in developing talents through training were he used to have evening classes for employees.

He was a risk taker and a hands-on leader. He never stopped dreaming and never stopped trying pursuing his dreams. Since his start, he didn’t stop working hard toward his goal even after many break downs happened to him in his early start.

Walter was more relationship oriented as he cares a lot about his employees. He used to know each one by name and insist to call him with his first name Walter. He tried to make everyone happy and had a strong commitment to his employees.

His main traits which helped him to be successful are: perseverance, passionate, dreamer, and highly imaginative and creative. These traits kept him focused in achieving his vision. Being in the entertainment business, these traits are the best suitable for him to be a leader in this area.

He is also a risk taker and has courage to accept changes even with high risk. As he struggled in his early life with the bankruptcy of his early ventures, he still kept focused and took further steps to achieve his goals. He didn’t change his career bath as result of the bankruptcy. Instead, he kept focused on his dream and believes as he saw an opportunity a head. He also changed with the new technologies and use technology as a way to be innovative.

Walt Disney said “When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” This quotation describes his hard effort to achieve his dream.

As a leader, he tried his best to have good relation with his employees. He worked closely with everyone in his company. He was willing to help employees to learn about animation. He pushed his employees to attend art school at his expense. This helped improving the quality of the work. Such attitude from Walter helped gaining the loyalty of his employees and increases their enthusiasm. He motivates people by sharing his ideas and concerns. He created a work environment where all work to gather in all business aspects.

All discussion above shows how Walter communicated his vision and dreams to his employees. He was motivating them by involving them in his dream. He showed them the big picture and described his vision to them. They followed his lead with high enthusiasm to achieve his goals. Disney as a company continued toward success even after his death in 1965 and is considered one of the largest entertainment companies around the world.

Mr. Walter is classified as transformational leader who influence people to follow him by his charisma. His way of dealing with people created trust, commitment and loyalty of followers which helped in achieving organizational goals and make dreams come true.

Mr. Walter said: “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.” This keeps Disney moving forward and keeps it successful.

Disney has the characteristics of transformational leaders of being idealized influence, intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration and inspiration motivation. These factors describe his charisma which made him a successful leader.


How to manage people become the largest challenges in any organization and is the focus of researchers. Lots of theories have been found to describe different attitudes, behaviors and management practices in organizations and development in this science will never end. As long as people are the key driver of organizations’ success, managing them will be the first step to achieve goals.

As long as there are different people working together, there must be managers who direct them toward achieving organizational goals. Managers guide people to do their work and instruct them in order to reach the organization goals. Managers have specific knowledge and skills to do so and follow lots of techniques to motivate people to follow their orders. Some managers become leaders who capture peoples’ willingness to follow them. “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things” is a famous quote by Peter F. Drucker that distinguish between managers and leaders.

This case shows that leaders have strong impact on people where they become followers rather than subordinates. Followers are inspired by their leaders to do their work. Napoleon Bonaparte quoted: “a leader is a dealer in hope.” This can explain the willingness of people to follow them. People believe on their leaders which motivate them to follow them. It’s a common sense that people will do thing better if they are willing to do it rather than forced to do it.

Walter Disney case shows how leadership makes difference. It also shows how people are inspired by leaders and how they willingness follow leaders. Disney being a transformational leader gained peoples’ respect and become a loved person. How he involves his staff in his work kept people committed even after his death. His company still successful and his visions are followed till date.

People use his quotes as inspiring quotations to motivate others. He said: “If you can dream it, you can do it”. He also said: “All the adversity, I’ve in my life, all my troubles and obstacles have strengthened me… You may not realized it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

People are driven till now by his vision and still willing to follow his lead after his death. He put his fingerprint in all people’s heart. His dream become true and he is an evidence of how leadership important and how it makes differences.

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