Walt Disney: Leadership Paper

3548 Words15 Pages
Introduction Leadership has many meanings, depending who you talk to. This paper will concentrate on leadership as the ability for one to influence others in reaching common goals (Northouse, 2013). The focus of this report is on Walt Disney, a man who demonstrated, both positive and negative leadership throughout his life. The leadership theories which will be focused on for this report include concept of power, trait approach, skills approach, style approach, and transformational leadership will be explored and applied to Disney’s experiences.

Biography Walt Disney was born on December 5, 1901 in Chicago, Illinois. At the age of four, his family moved to Missouri, where his love for drawing and arts developed. When he was 18 he
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Ken Annakin, one of Disney’s animation directors, said, “The key to Walt’s success was his ability to attract people to his cause, inspire them, and motivate them to work with him on his dreams. He sold people, and they bought in and become loyal followers. There still following him to this day” (Williams, Denney, 20014) Disney also had referent power, as his followers admired him and his visions. Disney’s employees worked very hard for Walt, even when he was difficult and demanding. He made them feel valued and gave them a sense of family. For example, according to Disney’s sound engineer, Gary Carlson, “Whenever anyone called him “Mr. Disney,” he got upset. It was always Walt. And he always knew your name. In the early days, we didn’t wear name tags, but Walt still called you by your first name” (Williams, Denney, 2004). When people referred to him as “Mr. Disney” he would insist they call him “Uncle Walt”. By knowing his employees by name and encouraging his employees to refer to him by his first name, he created deeper relationships with his followers, which in turn presented him more influential power.
Trait Approach The trait theory focuses on innate qualities and personality characteristics. Based on this theory, “leaders are born, not made” (Northouse, 2013). Throughout the 20th century researchers, including Stogdill, Mann, Locke, and Zaccaro, were challenged to identify universal traits to distinguish leaders
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