I don’t read a whole lot of business books anymore, but I do like reading ones written by people who were actually there. The most recent one I read is Bob Iger’s Ride of a Lifetime, where he writes about his 40+ years at Walt Disney Company; including being CEO.
I’ve obsessed about Disney for a long time, so a book written by the CEO of Disney is very appealing to me. This is a leadership book, and good one. Leadership is not easy, and Bob Iger certainly doesn’t claim to be a master at it. But he sees it as a set of principles applied consistently can make anyone a great leader.
Here then are Bob Iger’s 10 principles necessary to true leadership:
- 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.
- Courage. The foundation of risk-taking is courage, and in ever-changing, disrupted businesses, risk-taking is essential, innovation is vital, and true innovation occurs only when people have courage. This is true of acquisitions, investments, and capital allocations, and it particularly applies to creative decisions. Fear of failure destroys creativity.
- Focus. Allocating time, energy, and resources to the strategies, problems, and projects that are of highest importance and value is extremely important, and it’s imperative to communicate your priorities clearly and often.
- Decisiveness. All decisions, no matter how difficult, can and should be made in a timely way. Leaders must encourage a diversity of opinion balanced with the need to make and implement decisions. Chronic indecision is not only inefficient and counterproductive, but it is deeply corrosive to morale.
- 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.
- Fairness. Strong leadership embodies the fair and decent treatment of people. Empathy is 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.
- Thoughtfulness. Thoughtfulness is one of the most underrated elements of good leadership. It is the process of gaining knowledge, so an opinion rendered or decision made is more credible and more likely to be correct. It’s simply about taking the time to develop informed opinions.
- Authenticity. Be genuine. Be honest. Don’t fake anything. Truth and authenticity breed respect and trust.
- 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. If you’re in the business of making things, 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. 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.