Walt Disney: a Decision Maker and Leader

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Every leader must make decisions; however, decision making is a task that is simultaneously of utmost importance and easily erred (Garvin and Roberto). In their 2001 article, “What You Don’t Know About Decision Making,” David Garvin and Michael Roberto claim that good leaders view decisions as processes not events, and these good leaders design and manage their decision making process (Garvin and Roberto). Under these premises, the evidence suggests that Walt Disney was a great leader when it came to decision making.

Many leadership scholars attribute one methodology of decision making to Walt Disney, appropriately coined “The Disney Strategy” (Aston Business School). According to believers, Walt Disney kept three chairs in his office, each of which he placed in very particular spot. Each chair represented a specific anchor personality—the dreamer, the critic, the realist—from whose perspective Walt Disney would contemplate the issue at hand. First, Disney would sit in the dreamer’s chair and ask himself what he would decide if he was not constrained by resources or the risk of failure. In the dreamer’s chair, Disney dreamt wildly. Next, Disney moved to the critic’s chair, where Disney would rip apart all the dreamer’s dreams. He would pose counter arguments and essentially play devil’s advocate. Finally, Disney moved to the third and final chair—the realist’s chair—in which he approached the decision in light of the information he knew and the resources that were actually available. This process led fluidly into development of projects, into thorough research, or when necessary, to the putting aside of certain unattainable projects. In certain situations, Disney would repeat the process as a smaller level, for example, by analyzing just a project itself (Aston Business School). Supporters of this method and the principles behind it back the fact that it puts the decision maker in the proper mental state, imposes a rigid and multifaceted...
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