(A personal note: I am writing this blog post during the great pandemic of 2020. Some of the books I read, and present, seem oddly out of place with our current reality. Even as I write this post, Disney had quite a difficult reopening of Disney in Florida…
But this book is a terrific book, on business success, and on leadership.
One can only hope that life returns to “normal” as soon as possible).
At its simplest, this book is about being guided by a set of principles that help nurture the good and manage the bad.
I’ve come to believe that I have insights that could be useful beyond my own experience.
If you run a business or manage a team or collaborate with others in pursuit of a common goal, this book might be helpful to you.
We used to call our biggest, most exciting theme-park attractions “E-Tickets.” That’s what comes to mind when I think about the job, that it’s been a fourteen-year ride on a giant E-Ticket attraction known as the Walt Disney Company.
At the July First Friday Book Synopsis, I presented my synopsis on The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger.
This is a very good book.
Robert (Bob) Iger has been at the top position of Disney for fifteen years. (He stepped out of that role just before the pandemic, and quickly returned to the role because of the pandemic). He started at the bottom, and was mentored by Roone Arledge at one point. ESPN; ABC; Disney. Quite a resumé!
In my synopses, I always ask: What is the point? Here is my answer for this book: Leadership is earned. And respect is earned. Robert Iger came up from the bottom, learned his lessons, and earned the title of leader.
And I ask, Why is this book worth our time? Here are my three reasons for this book.
#1 – This book is a history of the Disney organization in modern times (along with some history of ABC and ESPN), and a tutorial on how to successfully pull off acquisitions and mergers.
#2 – This book is a reminder, yet again, that there are very few geniuses. Steve Jobs was one of those geniuses.
#3 – This book is a reminder that success most often comes from the basics; getting lucky with your opportunities and mentors; working hard; cultivating the right mix of strategic insights and human-centered leadership.
I always include Quotes and Excerpts from the book – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted passages. Here are a number of the very best from my synopsis handout:
• 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.
• A company’s success depends on setting high ethical standards for all things, big and small. Another way of saying this is: The way you do anything is the way you do everything.
• 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.
• It’s about creating an environment in which you refuse to accept mediocrity.
• One lesson in this story, the obvious one about the importance of taking responsibility when you screw up.
• I learned from them that genuine decency and professional competitiveness weren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, true integrity—a sense of knowing who you are and being guided by your own clear sense of right and wrong—is a kind of secret weapon. …They trusted in their own instincts, they treated people with respect, and over time the company came to represent the values they lived by.
• My instinct throughout my career has always been to say yes to every opportunity. In part this is just garden-variety ambition. …but I also wanted to prove to myself that I was capable of doing things that I was unfamiliar with.
• Your inexperience can’t be an excuse for failure.
• Managing creative processes starts with the understanding that it’s not a science—everything is subjective; there is often no right or wrong. …a delicate balance is required between management being responsible for the financial performance of any creative work and, in exercising that responsibility, being careful not to encroach on the creative processes in harmful and counterproductive ways.
• When the two people at the top of a company have a dysfunctional relationship, there’s no way that the rest of the company beneath them can be functional.
• I would give him a stack of materials in advance of a meeting, and the next day he’d come in not having read any of them and say, “Give me the facts,” then render a fast opinion.
He was covering up for not being prepared, and 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. You have to learn and absorb.
• 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.
• Pessimism became the rule more than the exception, and it led him to close ranks and become increasingly cloistered. …but optimism in a leader, especially in challenging times, is so vital.
Pessimism leads to paranoia, which leads to defensiveness, which leads to risk aversion.
• “The world is moving so much faster than it did even a couple of years ago.” …Our decision making has to be straighter and faster, and I need to explore ways of doing that.”
• I even took a moment before I walked into the room to look again at Theodore Roosevelt’s “The Man in the Arena” speech, which has long been an inspiration: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”
• In other words, demanding quality and integrity from all of our people and of all of our products is paramount, and there is no room for second chances, or for tolerance when it comes to an overt transgression that discredits the company in any way. In moments like that, you have to look past whatever the commercial losses are and be guided, again, by the simple rule that there’s nothing more important than the quality and integrity of your people and your product. Everything depends on upholding that principle.
The book has so many lessons, and great stories.
I especially appreciated the story of how Robert Iger salvaged the relationship with Roy Disney (the nephew of Walt Disney). Mr. Iger has a heart of empathy, and that shows in his leadership decisions; especially in this decision.
He also was greatly helped by his close friendship with Steve Jobs. His stories about that business and personal friendship are worth the price of the book!
Here are a few of the key points I included in my synopsis handout:
- a lesson in crisis management
- after the alligator attack — Within twenty-four hours, they had ropes and fences and signs up throughout the park, which is twice the size of Manhattan.
- a lesson in Innovation
- you have to do it
- you may need a whole new culture to do it; it may be much easier to acquire a true innovation culture than to make a non-innovative culture innovative
- a lesson in pushing management and decision-making out to the teams…
- Iger dismantled the strategy and decision-making culture – and he did it in one big swoop!
- Their dismantled strategy was fairly simple. They were hypervigilant about controlling costs, and they believed in a decentralized corporate structure.
- They hired people who were smart and decent and hardworking, they put those people in positions of big responsibility, and they gave them the support and autonomy needed to do the job.
- Take responsibility
- In your work, in your life, you’ll be more respected and trusted by the people around you if you honestly own up to your mistakes.
- What’s not okay is to undermine others by lying about something or covering your own ass first.
- You will fail – learn from your failures
- Of all the lessons I learned in that first year running prime time, the need to be comfortable with failure was the most profound.
- You have got to be aware when the world is changing/has changed
- Of great interest to me was the fact that almost every traditional media company, while trying to figure out its place in this changing world, was operating out of fear rather than courage, stubbornly trying to build a bulwark to protect old models that couldn’t possibly survive the sea change that was under way.
- You only get three — priorities (Disney: High quality branded content; embrace technology; global company)
- A company’s culture is shaped by a lot of things, but this is one of the most important—you have to convey your priorities clearly and repeatedly. In my experience, it’s what separates great managers from the rest. …If leaders don’t articulate their priorities clearly, then the people around them don’t know what their own priorities should be.
Here was a real highlight of the book: he began this book with “The Priniciples,” and he ended it with “lessons to lead by.” Both of these were great lists, with explanation and commentary. Her are just a few, from each list:
- The Principles:
- Optimism. — Simply put, people are not motivated or energized by pessimists.
- Courage. — The foundation of risk-taking is courage,
- Curiosity. — A deep and abiding curiosity enables the discovery of new people, places, and ideas, as well as an awareness and an understanding of the marketplace and its changing dynamics. The path to innovation begins with curiosity.
- Empathy — essential, as is accessibility. …People committing honest mistakes deserve second chances, and judging people too harshly generates fear and anxiety, which discourage communication and innovation. …Nothing is worse to an organization than a culture of fear. — Empathy is a prerequisite to the sound management of creativity, and respect is critical.
- The Relentless Pursuit of Perfection. — This doesn’t mean perfectionism at all costs, but it does mean a refusal to accept mediocrity or make excuses for something being “good enough.” …If you believe that something can be made better, put in the effort to do it. …be in the business of making things great.
- Integrity. — Nothing is more important than the quality and integrity of an organization’s people and its product. …setting high ethical standards for all things, big and small.
- Lessons to Lead By:
- To tell great stories, you need great talent.
- Now more than ever: innovate or die. There can be no innovation if you operate out of fear of the new.
- Take responsibility when you screw up.
- Be decent to people. Treat everyone with fairness and empathy.
- As a leader, if you don’t do the work, the people around you are going to know, and you’ll lose their respect fast.
- A company’s reputation is the sum total of the actions of its people and the quality of its products.
- You can’t communicate pessimism to the people around you. It’s ruinous to morale.
- Long shots aren’t usually as long as long as they seem. Take big swings.
- You have to do the homework. You have to be prepared.
- If something doesn’t feel right to you, it won’t be right for you.
- When hiring, try to surround yourself with people who are good in addition to being good at what they do. — Genuine decency—an instinct for fairness and openness and mutual respect—is a rarer commodity in business than it should be, and you should look for it in the people you hire.
- Most deals are personal.
- The decision to disrupt a business model that is working for you requires no small amount of courage. — Deal with this kind of uncertainty by going back to basics: Lay out your strategic priorities clearly. Remain optimistic in the face of the unknown. And be accessible and fair-minded to people.
- You have to approach your work and life with a sense of genuine humility.
- Hold on to your awareness of yourself, even as the world tells you how important you are.
And here are my six lessons and takeaways:
#1 – You cannot live off of yesterday’s successes. Innovate or die.
#2 – What is not paid careful attention to…becomes mediocre in a hurry.
#3 – It may not be possible to turn around a dysfunctional culture; especially one which spent a long time becoming dysfunctional. The answer may be to acquire the culture you need.
#4 – Treat people decently! Cultivate empathy. – Remember the Roy Disney story.
#5 – Cultivate the key relationships.
#6 – A footnote – regarding Marvel, and a dinner which included the two leaders and their wives – (Note: Robert Iger is married to Willow Bay, who is quite accomplished. She is the current Dean of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism).
And, I wish I had included his strong emphasis on the leader’s need to “take responsibility” in my lessons and takeaways, which comes through throughout the book. The responsibility is on the leader!
Though I always think it is better for folks to read a book for themselves, there are times when I think my synopsis will give someone “enough” of the book to be more than helpful. I do believe my synopsis of this book is quite thorough. But it cannot possibly give you the emotion or the full impact of the stories. This is a very good book. I encourage you to read it, especially if you are in a position of leadership.
I present synopses of two books a month at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas. My synopsis of this book, with my comprehensive, multi-page synopsis handout and the audio recording of my presentation, will be available to purchase soon at the “Buy Synopses” tab at the top of this page. Click here for our newest additions.
Learn to build trust. Learn to be decisive. Learn to take command. Learn to control your emotions. Learn to deliver the truth. Learn balance. Learn the strategies and tactics. LEARN TO LEAD.
Jocko Willink, Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual
I think we never quite get a handle on leadership. We read about leaders; we study leadership. But there are so few really great leaders, it seems.
I’ve read books by former coaches (Phil Jackson), great athletes (Abby Wambach), retired Generals (the most recent, Jim Mattis), business leaders, biographies of presidents…
I am currently pretty high on Jocko Willink in my ongoing quest to learn about great leadership.
Jocko Willink was a leader among his fellow Navy SEALs. He trained SEALs. He has now written this third book on leadership (the first two were co-authored by Leif Babin, another retired SEAL: Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership).
This new book, Leadership Strategy and Tactics: Field Manual, immediately jumped to the #1 spot on the New York Times best-selling business books list after it was published. It is a very good book. I presented my synopsis of this book at the February, 2020 First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.
I begin my synopses by asking What is the point? Here’s what I said for this book: To help people develop, a leader must lead them. To help people complete the mission, a leader must lead them. Becoming such an accomplished leader is a long-term commitment.
And I ask Why is this book worth our time? Here are my three reasons for this book.
#1 – This book includes stories, and insights, from what Jocko Willink learned as a Navy SEAL. The stories are fully transferable to “regular” life.
#2 – This book provides a comprehensive look at leadership challenges; real world challenges about those one will lead, and about leaders that will lead you.
#3 – Thus book reminds us that there is always the next new thing to learn about the challenge(s) of leadership.
I always include Quotes and Excerpts from the books I present – the “best of” Randy’s highlighted Passages. Here are a few of the passages I included in my synopsis of this book:
• The goal of leadership seems simple: to get people to do what they need to do to support the mission and the team. But the practice of leadership is different for everyone.
• That is one of the underlying themes of SEAL Team culture: you can never rest on what you have achieved in the past. You always have to improve.
• The more you talk, the less people listen.
• First, a leader can become more articulate. …practice speaking, study to expand their vocabulary, and read and write to practice and improve their ability to clarify and communicate their thoughts. …A leader can also get better at simplifying things. …The leader can pay attention to their posture and countenance. …A leader can also focus on things like looking people in the eye when talking to them, listening intently to what others say, and speaking clearly with humble authority. …The leader can make sure they project their voice so they are heard. …the leader can start to pay more attention to body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
• If two people trust each other, they have a relationship; if there is no trust, there is no relationship. So relationships are built on trust. Teams are built on relationships. If there aren’t relationships between people, there is no team.
• The best-performing athletes in the world reach greatness because of how hard they push themselves, not how hard others push them. …Always remember that imposed discipline is an uphill battle; it is not the best way to lead.
• The number one way to give yourself a chance for a promotion and leadership is simple and straightforward: performance. Do your job well. Work hard. Be the first person to show up to work and the last person to leave.
• In military parlance, tactical means the immediate situation right in front of you, the actual existing battle that is happening here and now. Strategic is the broad, long-term, overall objective you are trying to achieve. For example, a tactical objective might be trying to take a hill or a section of a city, whereas a strategic objective might be removal of a tyrannical leader who threatens the stability of the region he is in, which creates a clear and present danger.
Though the book includes many insights not found in his earlier books, he reminded usaf what he had already green about extensively; he reminded us to Remember the basics – the “Four Laws of Combat” — also included in his earlier books: Those four concepts, Cover and Move, Simple, Prioritize and Execute, and Decentralized Command, are the four Laws of Combat, and they work.
• Cover and Move
• Prioritize and Execute
• Decentralized command
• Commander’s Intent – the mission reigns supreme
Jocko expects and demands genuine integrity in leaders. I really like this emphasis, repeated throughout the book: ALWAYS legal; always moral; always ethical…
• But if a leader is asking the team to do something that is illegal, immoral, or unethical, it is the duty of the subordinates to refuse that order. This is obvious. It is inexcusable to do something simply because a person ordered you to do it.
• Truth and honesty are perhaps the most essential of leadership qualities.
I made a list of 25 things to learn in this book. Here are a few of the 25. (I left them in their original “number” from my list in my synopsis):
#1 – You might need to detach (the “high porting my weapon” story)
#3 – You know, because you learned, as you were given opportunity to plan, and execute, and lead. Give others such opportunities to learn.
#4 – Cultivate humility; beware of arrogance — there is one type of person who can never become a good leader: a person who lacks humility. People who lack humility cannot improve because they don’t acknowledge their own weaknesses.
#5 – Be very aware of the danger of ego; yours, and others.
#7 – The leader owns the results; entirely! (the leader alone!)
#9 – Be a good leader; be a good follower…
#11 – Communicate – communicate constantly. And simply. And clearly. — The better the relationships, the more open and effective communication there is.
#13 – Do not take credit for a job well done. Share the credit!
#15 – The leader does not have to have every needed leadership strength; but the team does… — The answer is simple: a good leader builds a great team that counterbalances their weaknesses.
#17 – Spend time with the troops (but…don’t be a “buddy” – R.M..)
#18 – Everyone is the most important member of the team.– every person’s job is absolutely critical. Explain to them what happens if they don’t do their jobs well.
#19 – Discipline — In the SEAL Teams, if you really care about your people, you won’t coddle them at all. You will push them hard. You will train them hard. — The easy path leads to misery. The path of discipline leads them to freedom.
#22 – Be very wary of “yes men” – As a leader, you should not want to be surrounded by yes-men—people who agree with everything you say. As a subordinate, you should not be a yes-man; you should speak up when something doesn’t make sense.
#23 – Be decisive! Make a decision! – Be decisive. When it is time to make a decision, make one.
#25 – Put others (especially “difficult” others) in charge of something – something that matters.
• And, as I always do, I ended my synopsis with my lessons and takeaways:
#1 – Leaders lead. Leaders must lead.
#2 – The way to learn to lead is to always be leading (when the opportunity presents itself; every time!).
#3 – Leaders own the results; leaders share the credit; and leaders accept all the blame.
#4 – Dealing with difficult leaders, inadequate leaders, is the reality of life. Learn to deal with them in a way that opens the next door for you to lead.
#5 – Leaders let people lead themselves. (They set them up to do it…) This is critical!
There are a few business subjects where reading one good book can set you on a good path. But there is no one such book on leadership. It is too big a subject; it is too imposing a challenge. A leader (or, an aspiring leader) needs to make the study of good and effective leadership a life-long task. This book is one to put near the top of your leadership reading list!
My synopsis, with the audio recording of my presentation, along with my multi-page, comprehensive synopsis handout, will be available soon on this site. You might want to check out my synopses of his two earlier books: Extreme Ownership and The Dichotomy of Leadership. Click on the buy synopses tab at top of this page, and you can search for these two synopses. The synopsis of this new book will soon be added to our newest editions page. Click here to see our newest additions.
And, I have written posts like this, with my lessons and takeaways, for many good business books. Search “lessons and takeaways” in our search box to browse through these articles.
How many more books will we see on leadership? Maybe we won’t see any more when we actually see leadership, or perhaps, leadership the way we want it.
So, here is another one. The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness by Lolly Daskal debuted at # 5 on the Wall Street Journal business best-seller list this weekend (June 10-11, 2017, p. C10).
The book, published by Portfolio, was distributed beginning on May 30.
Who is Lolly Daskal? This is her biography, published on Amazon.com:
Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world. Based on a mix of modern philosophy, science, and nearly thirty years coaching top executives, Lolly’s perspective on leadership continues to break new ground and produce exceptional results. Of her many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc.com, 100 Great Leadership Speakers for Your Next by Inc. magazine, and Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR, Inc.com, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post,and Psychology Today, and others.
“Daskal reveals her proven system, which leaders at any level can apply to dramatically improve their results. It begins with identifying your distinctive leadership archetype and recognizing its shadow:
■ The Rebel, driven by confidence, becomes the Imposter, plagued by self-doubt.
■ The Explorer, fueled by intuition, becomes the Exploiter, master of manipulation.
■ The Truth Teller, who embraces candor, becomes the Deceiver, who creates suspicion.
■ The Hero, embodying courage, becomes the Bystander, an outright coward.
■ The Inventor, brimming with integrity, becomes the Destroyer, who is morally corrupt.
■ The Navigator, trusts and is trusted, becomes the Fixer, endlessly arrogant.
■ The Knight, for whom loyalty is everything, becomes the Mercenary, who is perpetually self-serving.
Using psychology, philosophy, and her own experience, Daskal offers a breakthrough perspective on leadership. She’ll take you inside some of the most cloistered boardrooms, let you in on deeply personal conversations with industry leaders, and introduce you to luminaries who’ve changed the world. Her insights will help you rethink everything you know to become the leader you truly want to be.”
Whether we present this book at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas depends upon its sustained performance on the best-seller lists. Continue to monitor our blog for information about our upcoming selections.
John Maxwell, one of the most frequently read and quoted authors on leadership, has hit the best-seller list with his next entry. His book, No Limits: Blow the Cap Off Your Capacity (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017) debuted on the Wall Street Journal business books best-seller list at #7 this week (March 18-19, p. C10).
Here is a summary of the book, as it appears on Amazon.com:
“We often treat the word capacity as if it were a natural law of limitation. Unfortunately, most of us are much more comfortable defining what we perceive as off limits rather than what’s really possible. Could it be that many of us have failed to expand our potential because we have allowed what we perceive as capacity to define us? What if our limits are not really our limits?
“In his newest book, John Maxwell identifies 17 core capacities. Some of these are abilities we all already possess, such as energy, creativity and leadership. Others are aspects of our lives controlled by our choices, like our attitudes, character, and intentionality. Maxwell examines each of these capacities, and provides clear and actionable advice on how you can increase your potential in each. He will guide you on how to identify, grow, and apply your critical capacities. Once you’ve blown the “cap” off your capacities, you’ll find yourself more successful–and fulfilled–in your daily life.“
Although we have presented some of Maxwell’s books for clients at private events, we have never featured any of his works at the First Friday Book Synopsis in Dallas.
My opinion is that this book is short-lived on the best-seller lists, and will likely not materialize in our short list of books to present at our event. Only time will tell, so keep watching our website for developments.
I am really excited about the presentation I will give this week at the First Friday Book Synopsis at the Park City Club in Dallas. If you have not yet registered, just go to: 15minutebusinessbooks.com.
The book is Together is Better, authored by Simon Sinek (Portfolio, 2016). It is the second book we have presented from Sinek, and this one was on every business best-selling list that we could find.
Here are some advance tidbits from the presentation that I will make.
Most of us live our lives by accident – we live as it happens. Fulfillment comes when we live our lives on purpose.
A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other.
Fight against something and we focus on the thing we hate. Fight for something and we focus on the thing we love.
Working hard for something we don’t care about is called stress. Working hard for something we love is called passion.
A star wants to see himself rise to the top. A leader wants to see those around him become stars.
If you have to miss it, you can always purchase the presentation and handout on 15minutebusinessbooks.com. But, you don’t get the networking, and you don’t get an omelette.
This is an inspirational book, and I wish I had read it before Christmas, as it would have been a great stocking-stuffer for some of my professional contacts.
a painful or horrific experience, especially a protracted one.
You remember the old illustration/joke. A couple is talking, and the woman says: “It’s just… there’s all this pressure. My head just won’t start hurting.” The man finally says “You do have a nail in your head.” (Watch the short video, “It’s Not About the Nail”).
Here’s the idea. People don’t like to endure an ordeal. And if they can avoid it, they will in fact try to avoid it!
Ok, maybe the word choice is a little strong — “ordeal: a painful or horrific experience.” But, if you go into work, and you do not like working with the people at work, and they do not seem to like working with you, and every interaction turns into something unpleasant, and you feel heavy in your shoulders and de-energized and de-motivated, maybe it’s time to take the nail out of your head.
In other words, people do not like working in “ordeal” conditions instead of “ideal” conditions.
Whether it is a team meeting, a larger meeting, a one-on-one interaction, people do not like enduring an ordeal. And if that is what it feels like, seems like, well…
I think one job of a leader – a leader at the top, a team leader, a supervisor; any leader — is mainly about creating and nurturing and protecting working conditions where people can work together without hating, or dreading, or enduring the experience.
Create good working conditions. Never let your work place become an ordeal to endure. If you do, you’re in real, real trouble.