The Leadership of Walt Disney
This biographical study attempts to demonstrate the ways in which Walt Disney’s leadership influenced his followers through his method of leadership and the extent to which his followers influenced his leadership style. This will be demonstrated with reference to relevant leadership theories, whereby section I shall relate the leadership style of Walt Disney with reference to ‘Transformational Leadership’, and more specifically: ‘Idealised Influence’, ‘Inspirational Motivation’, ‘Intellectual Stimulation’ and ‘Individualised Consideration’. Section II considers ‘Path-Goal Theory’ and section III ‘Contingency Theory’. Section IV deals with ‘Team Leadership’ with reference to ‘Leader-Member Exchange Theory’ and, lastly, section V regards the importance of ‘Authentic Leadership’ style to the effectiveness of Walt Disney’s organisational culture. It does not intend to give an in depth commentary on the life of Walt Disney, nor does it anticipate to outline the modus operandi of the Disney Company today. However, it does seek to understand the leadership styles of Walt Disney with reference to theories primarily referenced in extant leadership theory and practice.
I. Transformation Leadership
Walt Disney saw his subordinates as a means not an end. Working beyond traditional leadership, he notoriously took risks and motivated followers to produce a more innovative enterprise. During his leadership, team members were treated as decision makers instead of mere executors of managerial requisition (Flower 1991) and mutually aligned with individual ethos, ethics, values and standards to a long term prospectus of company goals.
Germane to the theory of Transformational leadership, one could assimilate his leadership principles through methods of Idealised Influence, Inspirational Motivation, Intellectual Stimulation and Individualised Consideration (Bass & Avolio 1990 in Northouse 2010, p. 180).
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