The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger

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This is the life story of former Disney CEO, Bob Iger. Iger led a fascinating career in which he ascended from the lower ranks of organizations to being the leader of one of the world’s largest, most respected organizations. It’s full of fascinating stories, triumphs, and leadership lessons.

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Key Takeaways

Good leaders are optimistic

“Optimism. One of the most important qualities of a good leader is optimism, a pragmatic enthusiasm for what can be achieved. Even in the face of difficult choices and less than ideal outcomes, an optimistic leader does not yield to pessimism. Simply put, people are not motivated or energized by pessimists.”

Nobody wants to listen to a Negative Nelson. If you want to lead in any capacity, large or small, you need to be prepared to be optimistic in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. Optimism is what fuels persistence, fosters creativity, and inspires people to find solutions.

Be authentic

“True authority and true leadership come from knowing who you are and not pretending to be anything else.”

You need to find your unique leadership style. Trying to be someone else makes you a phony. While it can take time to find your leadership voice, it’s worth the effort. It’s what will allow you to lead in a unique, compelling way.

How to learn

“Ask the questions you need to ask, admit without apology what you don’t understand, and do the work to learn what you need to learn as quickly as you can.”

Good leaders don’t know everything. They ask questions, dig deep when they don’t understand, and work hard to get up the learning curve. There is no other option.

How to respond to bad news

“And I tend to approach bad news as a problem that can be worked through and solved, something I have control over rather than something happening to me.”

Professional challenges are problems to be solved, rather than bad fortune that’s outside of your control. Once understand that the obstacle is the way, you will be prepared to face challenges with optimism and resilience.

Don’t play it safe

“Don’t be in the business of playing it safe. Be in the business of creating possibilities for greatness.”

Leadership, innovation, and thriving in competitive marketplaces requires you to take risks. You obviously want to take smart risks, but don’t play it safe. At best, playing it safe keeps you where you are. But with time, competitors will come in and dismantle your organization. Leaders understand this, and they take smart bets in an uncertain and fast-changing world.

Help others

“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.”

Organizations don’t succeed because of one person. It’s a team effort. As a leader, it’s your responsibility to empower the people that work for you to improve and do their jobs well. Instead of castigating them when things go wrong, help them solve the roadblocks that are preventing their success. If you do this, everyone will be happier and more successful.

Have clear priorities

“If leaders don’t articulate their priorities clearly, then the people around them don’t know what their own priorities should be. Time and energy and capital get wasted.”

Without clear priorities, people will gravitate toward easy, low-value tasks. They will feel uncertain about what they should be doing. As a leader, you need to articulate your priorities clearly. And make sure there aren’t too many priorities. At any given time, the organization should be moving in a small number of value-adding directions.

Empathy is critical

“Empathy is a prerequisite to the sound management of creativity, and respect is critical.”

Good leaders learn how to harness empathy to their advantage. They understand that organizations are made up of people with unique needs, and they help those people meet those needs.
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