Book notes: The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger

The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger book summary review and key ideas.

The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger

Synopsis:

“Robert Iger became CEO of The Walt Disney Company in 2005, during a difficult time. Competition was more intense than ever, and technology was changing faster than at any time in the company’s history. His vision came down to three clear ideas: Recommit to the concept that quality matters, embrace technology instead of fighting it, and think bigger – think global – and turn Disney into a stronger brand in international markets.

Fourteen years later, Disney is the largest, most admired media company in the world, counting Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm, and 21st Century Fox among its properties. Its value is nearly five times what it was when Iger took over, and he is recognized as one of the most innovative and successful CEOs of our era.

In The Ride of a Lifetime, Robert Iger shares the lessons he learned while running Disney and leading its 220,000-plus employees, and he explores the principles that are necessary for true leadership, including:

  • Optimism. Even in the face of difficulty, an optimistic leader will find the path toward the best possible outcome and focus on that, rather than give in to pessimism and blaming.
  • Courage. Leaders have to be willing to take risks and place big bets. Fear of failure destroys creativity.
  • Decisiveness. All decisions, no matter how difficult, can be made on a timely basis. Indecisiveness is both wasteful and destructive to morale.
  • Fairness. Treat people decently, with empathy, and be accessible to them.

This audiobook is about the relentless curiosity that has driven Iger for 45 years, since the day he started as the lowliest studio grunt at ABC. It’s also about thoughtfulness and respect, and a decency-over-dollars approach that has become the bedrock of every project and partnership Iger pursues, from a deep friendship with Steve Jobs in his final years to an abiding love of the Star Wars mythology.

“The ideas in this book strike me as universal”, Iger writes. “Not just to the aspiring CEOs of the world, but to anyone wanting to feel less fearful, more confidently themselves, as they navigate their professional and even personal lives.”” -Audible


~If you enjoy my summary, please consider buying me a coffee via my Ko-Fi link (click the button below) or become a recurring donor as a YBC Scholar! 📖 🎓

I appreciate every donation as it goes directly to the maintenance costs of my blog and creation of new content. 😊

Buy Me a Coffee at ko-fi.com

Opening thoughts:

I don’t know if I put this book on my list because of a recommendation, but it has decent reviews. Also, I wanted to find a book that was more narrative so that my month isn’t just all learning-type books. I read the book Creativity. Inc which was about Pixar a while ago, and it was fascinating to hear the behind-the-scenes story about such a famous and culturally influential company. I think Disney now more so since they’ve gotten so much bigger and a global influence in the past couple decades.


Key notes:

  • Parks: Anaheim, Orlando, Paris, Tokyo, Hong Kong. Shanghai was one of the biggest investments in the history of the company
  • The overwhelming challenge that became the mantra for everyone working on the Shanghai Park project was to create an experience that was authentically Disney and distinctly Chinese
  • When it comes to a crisis, sometimes even when you are in charge, the best thing for you to do is let your people handle it because there’s nothing for you to chime in on
  • 10 Principles necessary to true leadership:
    1. Optimism
    2. Courage
    3. Focus
    4. Decisiveness
    5. Curiosity
    6. Fairness
    7. Thoughtfulness
    8. Authenticity
    9. The relentless pursuit of perfection
    10. Integrity

Part One: Learning

Chapter 1: starting at the bottom

  • 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
  • Perfection was the result of getting all the little things right
  • Do what you need to do to make things better 
  • In your work and your life you’ll be more respected and trusted when you take responsibility for your mistakes and also learn from them
  • Excellent and fairness don’t have to be mutually exclusive 

Chapter 2: betting on talent

  • Genuine decency and professional competitiveness weren’t mutually exclusive
    • In fact, true integrity comes from knowing who you truly are and being guided by your own sense of right and wrong
  • Life is an adventure
    • If you don’t choose the adventurous path, you’re not really living

Chapter 3: know what you don’t know, and trust in what you do

  • True authority and true leadership come from knowing who you are and not pretending to be anyone else
  • Managing the creative processes start with an understanding that it is not a science
    • Everything is subjective and there is no right or wrong. The passion it takes to create something is powerful and most creatures are understandably sensitive when their vision or execution is questioned
  • You need to have a clear understanding of the big picture or else the small details won’t matter
  • Empathy is a prerequisite for the sound management of creativity
    • Respect is critical
  • He learned that it was important to be comfortable with failure
    • He didn’t want to be in the business of playing it safe, but to be in business of creating possibilities for greatness
    • If you want innovation, you need to give permission to fail 
  • He believes his strength is his ability to urge creative people to do their best work and take chances, while also helping them rebound from failure
    • It is always a collective effort
  • At meetings outside of his own company, he tries to connect and exchange words with everyone at the table
    • It is a small gesture but he remembers how important it is to make people feel seen
    • Anything that reminds you that you’re not the center of the universe is a good thing

Chapter 4: enter Disney

  • When the two people at the top of the company have a dysfunctional relationship, there’s no way that the rest of the company beneath them can be functional. 
  • Managing your own time and respecting other people’s time is one of the most vital things to do as a manager
  • In a company like Disney, if you don’t do the work, the people around you detect that right away and their respect for you disappears
    • You have to be attentive, learn, and absorb
    • You have to listen to other people’s problems and help find solutions
      • It’s all a part of being a great manager

Chapter 5: second in line

  • In managing oneself and those below you, can’t let ambition get too far ahead of opportunity
    • They shouldn’t let the job they want distract from the job they have
  • At its essence, good leadership isn’t about being indispensable
    • It’s about helping others be prepared to possibly step in to your shoes, giving them access to your own decision making, identifying the skills they need to develop and helping them improve, and being honest with them about why they’re not ready for the next step

Chapter 6: good things can happen

  • Optimism is important for a leader to lead and instill confidence in those around them
    • Decisions are made with different intent and energy with optimism

Chapter 7: it’s about the future

  • A clear roadmap for a company from the leadership reduces anxiety of the whole organization and allows people to focus on their work
    • Decisions become easier for them in the context of a larger plan
  • His three priorities became:
    1. Focusing on quality content
    2. Leveraging and doubling down on technology
    3. Becoming a truly global company

Part Two: Leading

Chapter 8: the power of respect 

  • Don’t let your ego get in the way of making the best possible decision
  • A little respect goes a long way
    • The absence of it is very costly

Chapter 9: Disney-Pixar and the new path to the future

  • Longshots aren’t usually as long as they seem
    • When you believe in your own power and in the ability of your organizations to make it happen
    • With enough energy, thoughtfulness, and commitment, even the boldest ideas could be executed
  • In a creative business, you aren’t buying physical goods or assets, you’re buying people

Chapter 10: marvel and massive risks that makes perfect sense

  • He had a really great relationship with Steve Jobs and was one of the most unexpected joys during his time as CEO
    • He consulted with Steve a lot as a friend (who was also Disney’s largest shareholder)
  • Lesson about hiring: surround yourself with people who are good, in addition to being good at what they do
  • He knew the decision to move towards more inclusivity and diversity in their films was the right step and advocated for it
    • The blowout success of Black Panther and Captain Marvel proved that the old truisms in Hollywood about movies were not true
  • There may be no product they’ve created that they’re more proud of than Black Panther
    • He’s never received so many notes and calls about anything he’s ever been associated with in his entire career
      • Famous actors and celebrities and even president Obama commented on how important that film was for society

Chapter 11: Star Wars 

  • Projecting your anxiety onto your team is counterproductive
    • There is a subtle difference between communicating you share their stress and communicating that you need them to deliver in order to alleviate your own stress
  • In each of the large acquisitions by Disney, there was a personal component that needed to be handled with authenticity

Chapter 12: if you don’t innovate, you die

  • Management by press release is the concept where making a public statement showing your conviction also galvanizes and signals commitment to your employees
  • When you innovate, everything needs to change, not just the way you make or deliver a product
    • Many of the practices and structures within the company need to adapt too
      • Companies fail to innovate because of tradition
        • Tradition generates so much friction every step of the way

Chapter 13: no price on integrity

  • There’s nothing more important than the quality and integrity of your people and your product
    • Everything depends on upholding that principle

Chapter 14: core values

  • After the purchase of 21st century fox, his template of the 3 pillars he laid out before becoming CEO came true
    • They focused on quality branded content, technology, and becoming a global company
  • Even when a CEO is working effectively and productively, it’s important for a company to have change at the top
  • He had great mentors and trusted his instincts
  • He can’t emphasize enough how much success is also dependent on luck
  • Wherever you are along the path, you’re the same person you’ve always been
  • Be decent to people
    • Treat everyone with fairness and empathy
  • Value ability more than experience
    • Put people in roles that require more of them than they know they have in them
  • 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
  • Managing creativity is an art, not a science
  • If you want innovation, you need to grant permission to fail
  • You can do a lot for the morale of the people around you and the people around them just by taking the guesswork out of their day to day life
  • Treating others with respect is an undervalued currency when it comes to negotiating
    • A little goes a long way, and the absence of it can be very costly
  • Hold onto your awareness of yourself, even if the world tells you how important and powerful you are

Main ideas / Themes:

  • Life is an adventure – If you don’t choose the adventurous path, you’re not really living
  • True authority and true leadership come from knowing who you are and not pretending to be anyone else
  • Empathy is a prerequisite for the sound management of creativity
  • Treating others with respect is critical and an undervalued currency when it comes to dealing with people
  • He learned that it was important to be comfortable with failure and give others permission to fail. Be in the business of creating opportunities for greatness
  • It is always a collective effort
  • Managing your own time and respecting other people’s time is one of the most vital things to do as a manager. You must be attentive, learn, absorb, listen to other people’s problems, and help find solutions
  • Good leadership is about helping others be prepared to possibly step in to your shoes if needed
  • Optimism is important for a leader to lead and instill confidence in those around them. Decisions are made with different intent and energy with optimism
  • A clear roadmap from the leadership reduces anxiety of the whole organization and allows people to focus on their work
  • Bold ideas can be executed with enough energy, thoughtfulness, and commitment
  • Surround yourself with people who are good, in addition to being good at what they do
  • When you innovate, everything needs to change
  • There’s nothing more important than the quality and integrity of your people and your product

10 Principles necessary to true leadership

  1. Optimism
  2. Courage
  3. Focus
  4. Decisiveness
  5. Curiosity
  6. Fairness
  7. Thoughtfulness
  8. Authenticity
  9. The relentless pursuit of perfection
  10. Integrity

Closing thoughts:

This was such a great book on leadership and management. It makes sense based on the principles how he was able to be so successful in 40+ years in his industry and 15 years as CEO of Disney.

As expected, it was such a great insight into not only his life, but how Disney has grown and evolved in the past couple of decades while he worked there. I remember reading about Pixar’s interactions with Disney right around the time they went under the Disney umbrella and also working with Steve Jobs around that time from the book Creativity, Inc. It’s also crazy to get the inside scoop on how they came to acquire Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and Fox, which is insane now that I realized what that actually meant for all parties involved.

Again, such a great book on leadership. I really appreciate all of the life lessons and principles needed to be an effect leader and CEO, and I guess just for life in general. Highly recommend this book for people trying to improve in that area, or just have a strong fascination for Disney and would like to learn about it’s recent history and growth.


One Takeaway / Putting into practice:

Many of these principles aren’t really new to me, meaning I’ve heard them in some way or another in various other memoirs and books on leadership. But to stay on the theme of the title, my own takeaway for this book would be:

Life is an adventure – If you don’t choose the adventurous path, you’re not really living

It’s a good reminder for me to take chances, do the adventurous thing, and live my life to the fullest. With that frame of mind, I can’t imagine I’ll regret any of my big decisions moving forward.


Nutshell:

15+ year Disney executive Robert Iger gives his account of his journey to becoming the CEO and assisting in some of the biggest changes in the history of a company responsible for so much of our culture today.


Similar books:


Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

4/5


Try Audible for audiobooks 📚🎧

Personal recommendation: For the last 6 years, I’ve used Audible to listen to all of my favorite books. It’s easy to use, cost-effective, and they have the best library of audiobooks.

If you use my affiliate links below, not only will you get a special offer, but it’ll help support the costs to maintain this blog! 😊👇

Try Audible and Get Two Free Audiobooks

Audible Gift Memberships 


Please donate! 🙂

Please consider a small donation to help support my blog ^_^ I love providing free book notes and other content. Any donations help me maintain my website and create content consistently. Thanks everyone for the continued support!

$2.00

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s