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The Ride of a Lifetime

Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

By Robert Iger
18-minute read
Audio available
The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger

In The Ride of a Lifetime (2019), Robert Iger charts his career from the backrooms of an American TV network to CEO of Disney. As Iger himself emphasizes, reaching the top wasn’t always smooth sailing – in fact, Disney’s future was anything but secure when he landed his dream job back in 2005. So how did he turn things around? Well, that’s what we’ll be exploring in these blinks as we look at the strategy, vision, and leadership style of one of the world’s most innovative CEOs. 

  • Insight-hungry leaders
  • Tech-heads fascinated by innovation 
  • Movie-goers interested in what happens behind the scenes

Robert Iger has been the CEO of the Walt Disney Company since 2005. Before his promotion, he served as the corporation’s president and COO. Iger began his career at ABC in 1974 and held a number of key positions at the network before its acquisition by Disney.  

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The Ride of a Lifetime

Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company

By Robert Iger
  • Read in 18 minutes
  • Audio & text available
  • Contains 11 key ideas
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The Ride of a Lifetime: Lessons Learned from 15 Years as CEO of the Walt Disney Company by Robert Iger
Synopsis

In The Ride of a Lifetime (2019), Robert Iger charts his career from the backrooms of an American TV network to CEO of Disney. As Iger himself emphasizes, reaching the top wasn’t always smooth sailing – in fact, Disney’s future was anything but secure when he landed his dream job back in 2005. So how did he turn things around? Well, that’s what we’ll be exploring in these blinks as we look at the strategy, vision, and leadership style of one of the world’s most innovative CEOs. 

Key idea 1 of 11

Robert Iger owes much of his success in life to his father’s influence.

All of us are molded by a combination of two factors: nature and nurture. This blend of inherited and learned traits can be tricky to disentangle. But while there’s little accounting for biology’s whims, we can trace what we learned as children back to its source – our parents. 

Robert Iger grew as the elder of two children up in a split-level house in Oceanside, a working class town on Long Island, New York. His mother was a warm and loving stay-at-home mom; his father, an ad-man who had served in the US Navy during the Second World War, was a more difficult person. Ultimately, though, it was the latter who had the greatest influence on Iger.

A graduate of Wharton, a renowned business school in Pennsylvania, Iger’s father was a clever and gifted man prone to brooding and self-doubt. Later, Iger learned that he had been diagnosed with manic depression.

His lasting legacy was to nurture his son’s sense of curiosity. A keen reader, he had lined the family’s bookshelves with the works of great American writers. When Iger wasn’t reading Mark Twain, Faulkner or Hemingway, he was discussing politics with his dad – a vocal liberal who had once quit a job to hear Martin Luther King Jr. give a speech. Iger quickly learned that his father didn’t care what he did with his time as long as he was spending it “productively” and used it to better himself. 

And that’s just what he did. Whether he was delivering papers to help bring in extra income, mending household appliances or immersing himself in the New York Times, Iger was self-reliant and dedicated in everything he did. There was a reason for that: There was nothing he feared more than ending up suffering from the sense of failure that haunted his father.  

Years later, after he had become the CEO of Disney, Iger took his dad out to lunch in New York. He told him how grateful he was for everything he and his mother had done for him. This, he hoped, might liberate his father from his belief that he had never achieved anything worthwhile. As Iger put it to him that day, so many of the traits that have served him well in his career came from him. 

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