Work is about the mentors and friends you make along the way
Roone, a manager from his first job at ABC, demanded attention to detail, creativity, and excellence from all his employees. Dan and Tom, from Capital Cities, became role models in leadership, making bets on people and giving them the freedom to fail. Steve Jobs became more than a board member of Disney after the Pixar acquisition. Iger mentions that Disney and Apple may have merged or had a close partnership if Jobs were still alive today. My imagination runs wild with what could've been.
Iger constantly credited his success to the lessons he learned from his mentors and friends along the way. His ability to connect and understand people gave him a unique edge as CEO of Disney. The big deals he struck with Ike Perlmutter and Marvel, George Lucas and Lucasfilm, and Rupert Murdoch and Fox were all about him understanding the concerns of the respective CEOs and merging the goals of Disney with the aspirations of each of these companies.
The power of journaling your thoughts
Don’t get me wrong - I thought the book was great. But I think the level of detail that’s found in Shoe Dog compared to The Ride of a Lifetime is astounding. Multiple points in Shoe Dog, Phil Knight notes that he journaled and that directly translated to the level of detail and the clarity of emotions and thoughts in every moment of the book.
In contrast, Iger’s book felt more like information you would get combing through work emails - you’d get what happened, but not necessarily the thought process and emotions behind the moments.
Disney messed up with Star Wars
Iger pulled off a great deal to buy Lucasfilm and the Star Wars legacy. What they've done with it since has been much more questionable, and his account of the Star Wars deal further confirms my opinion.
George Lucas sold Lucasfilm with outlines for 3 films for the sequel trilogy. Though it wasn't explicitly stated in the deal, he expected these outlines to be used for the next films. But they didn't.
The new films definitely broke ground with a strong female lead and diversity, but lacks the coherent universe of the original movies. Lucas couldn't hide his disappointment when he saw Star Wars Episode VII. I wonder how he feels about the rest of the trilogy.
While I'm happy there is more Star Wars content being released, I am disappointed with the job Disney did with the sequel trilogy. I think it's great to come up with original Star Wars stories and diverge from the outlines. But if you're going to diverge from the Lucas's outlines, plan a coherent trilogy that builds a universe that fans can buy into.
To this day, I wake nearly every morning at four-fifteen, though now I do it for selfish reasons: to have time to think and read and exercise before the demands of the day take over. Those hours aren’t for everyone, but however you find the time, it’s vital to create space in each day to let your thoughts wander beyond your immediate job responsibilities, to turn things over in your mind in a less pressured, more creative way than is possible once the daily triage kicks in. I’ve come to cherish that time alone each morning, and am certain I’d be less productive and less creative in my work if I didn’t also spend those first hours away from the emails and text messages and phone calls that require so much attention as the day goes on.
At its essence, good leadership isn’t about being indispensable; it’s about helping others be prepared to possibly step into your shoes—giving them access to your own decision making, identifying the skills they need to develop and helping them improve, and, as I’ve had to do, sometimes being honest with them about why they’re not ready for the next step up.
Bog Iger's tenure as CEO of Disney is a case study of the concepts in Clay Christensen's The Innovator's Dilemma (I've written notes for the book here).
Christensen defines the innovator's dilemma as the tradeoff that successful companies face between optimizing existing processes, management, and value networks for what makes them successful and generate revenue and investing in emerging technologies that either have unproven small markets or would cannibalize their existing business.
He actually notes at some point in the book the necessity to escape the innovator's dilemma. His strategy cannibalized their existing cable distribution pipelines and lucrative contenting licensing deals. Instead he doubled down on producing or acquiring quality content highlighted by the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm and then pushing for direct-to-consumer distribution, kickstarted by the acquisition of BAMTech.
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How successful companies fall to startups not because of poor management, but changing value networks and limitations created by existing processes.