Practical Lessons from Disney

Texas Executive Education recently hosted the Disney Institute for a one-day workshop, The Disney Keys to Excellence. The program offered a behind the scenes look at the “Disney approach” to business and management issues. The program was high-energy, entertaining and challenged participants to consider how Disney best-practices, philosophies, strategies, concepts and tactics could be applied in their organizations. Here is some Disney wisdom regarding Leadership Excellence:

As a leader, you must ask yourself: What is important to me? How do others know this?

The Story:

  • Every leader is on stage and is telling a story about what he or she>
  • Since we judge ourselves by our intentions and others judge us by our behaviors, leaders must decide which values are most important to them and exemplify those values in their behavior
  • Every action sends a message.
  • Through our actions we tell a story about what’s important to us.

The Vision:

  • A vision is a picture of the future that is created in the imagination and motivates action.
  • Leaders must take responsibility for creating and communicating a clear vision.
  • Advantages of a vision: Creates a shared a meaningful purpose; Inspires passion and interest; Conveys values; and Guides decision making and strategy.


  • Leaders must actively involve his/her team in order to achieve their vision.
  • Leaders build involvement by: Transferring power and decision making authority; Providing team members with opportunities for education; Allocating the appropriate resources to allow team members to do their jobs; and Creating an environment that contributes to the sharing of information.
  • Don’t work in silos—Share. Great information isn’t great unless it’s shared.

More good words to ponder from Disney:

  • From Walt Disney’s brother Roy: “When values are clear, decisions are easy.”
  • Regarding customer service: “Above all, you’re creating happiness.” “You make the magic!”
  • There are going to be days when you have to find your own applause!
  • Treat your employees like you treat your customers.

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