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Leadership Lessons from Bob Iger

Feb 7, 2023



As you may have heard…the best Bob (Bob Iger, that is) is back! In 2022, Disney seemingly decided overnight that they would replace CEO Bob Chapek with Disney’s most beloved leaders (aside from Walt Disney, of course)!

We’re big fans of Iger. His 15-year story as head of Disney is pretty inspiring — from acquiring three major film/production companies to countless box office hits (some of which even broke a few records!) to launching Disney+; it really seems like the man has done it all. 

But more than those accomplishments, Bob Iger was also a great leader who we, as small business owners, can learn a lot from. 

So in today’s blog, we’re going to be recapping our two-part series (listen to part one here) on the leadership lessons found in his book, The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company, and how we can use them in our own businesses. 


One of the things Bob Iger is best known for is his optimism, which is also what drives his creative ideas. He says, “Optimism is that 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.”

But optimism is one of those things that’s easier said than done — putting it into practice is tough! However, having this type of approach to your business can keep it moving forward. 

And while we may be in a recession, staying optimistic can help you stay true to the values that your business is known for. It can draw new people into the mix and attract good talent. 

Even if you’re worried about the future of your business, optimism can keep you going and give you something to look forward to.


Focus, as Iger explains it, is allocating your time, energy, and resources to the tasks with the highest value. This is basically what we mean when we say, “Don’t get caught up in shiny object syndrome.”

Part of being a good leader is knowing what to do and when. You can’t effectively lead the people around you if you don’t even know what to do with your business. But focus? It can keep things clear for you and for your team and ultimately keep things trucking along. 


That brings us to our next point — decisiveness

You don’t see a lot of businesses progress without making decisions. Lack of decisiveness slows us down, holds up projects, and can cause many revisions. 

But honestly? Not making a decision is still making a decision. You have the choice to either stay where you are or take the risk of moving forward. And Iger reiterates that it’s okay to make mistakes. That failure can better you in the long run. 

If you never get your foot out of the food, you will always be stuck in the house. 


There have been several times when Disney has experienced valleys and low points…and we’re not just talking about when Bob Chapek stepped into the role of CEO. In 2005, when Iger came on as CEO, Disney wasn’t doing too hot at the box office. 

It had been a while since anything groundbreaking came out, but after he stepped in, box office hits came back, and the parks became more enjoyable.

He knew that Disney couldn’t stay where it was if it wanted to continue on. People were getting tired of seeing princesses and only princesses. So what did Iger do? He conducted SEVERAL IP acquisitions (acquiring Pixar in 2009, Marvel and George Lucas’ Lucas Films in 2012, and 21st Century Fox in 2018).

That’s what skyrocketed Disney to the next level. And it’s all because Iger could step out of the four corners of his office and visualize what things were like for his audience. Because when you have curiosity, you promote creativity and foster an environment that innovates. 


Being a good leader isn’t just about coming up with good ideas. It’s also about having empathy and compassion for the people who work under you. 

Mistakes are going to happen, but don’t purposely make your employees feel about it. Fear and anxiety are not productive conditions. And just like curiosity breeds innovation, so does reassurance and knowing you have room to make mistakes and improve them. 


We couldn’t talk about fairness without also talking about inclusivity. In recent years, Disney has become more inclusive by supporting the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as having much more representation for people of color both on and off the screen. (Another reason Chapek wasn’t a big hit: He didn’t speak out against Florida’s Don’t Say Gay bill.)

Bob himself says that a good leader needs to be more than a good leader; they need to also be good. Values drive pretty much everything we do in business, and it’s important that those values also involve being fair and inclusive. 


Part of the reason Bob Iger was so successful in his time as CEO was that he thought everything through with intention. He listened to his audience and made sure that what Disney did as a company reflected what they wanted to see

Since his return in 2022, he’s already decided to roll back many things fans complained about — higher prices, no free overnight parking, and TONS more. Because of that, we’re seeing those same fans enjoy their experiences again. 

Are you listening to your audience? Do you know what they want? If not, it may be time to tune in. 


If you want to talk about integrity, just look at what happened when Disney replaced Bob Chapek as CEO. Instead of secreting Iger back in and acting like everything was fine, Disney’s teams were open and honest about it.

No one knew that it would happen, and it stunned the internet. But Disney gave their cast members and employees the heads up before telling the media. 

And when they did, they admitted that Chapek’s time at Disney wasn’t successful. They owned up to the fact that he wasn’t the right person to lead Disney during a global pandemic and then some. But Iger was. He had the ability to see long-term, and to deter Disney from potential problems in the future.

And if that doesn’t show you that it’s okay to make mistakes and pivot when you realize you did, we don’t know what will!

More magic for your small business

Don’t forget to subscribe to Pixie Dust & Profits and tune in each week as we share more tips from the Mouse that can help you grow your small business. Be sure to follow us @pixiedustandprofits and sign up for our mailing list to get some fun extras! See ya real soon.



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