Why Isn't My Leader Great?

This is a continuation of the series on Answering Tough Questions

Question:  Why Isn’t My Leader Great . . . Like You Are Always Talking About?


Having great Leaders in every leadership position was always my goal at Walt Disney World and we made huge progress over the years.  I wished that every single leader could be great for his or her fellow Cast Members; but with more than 7,000 management positions  at the Walt Disney World® Resort, there was always going to be some managers who had not stepped up to becoming leaders.


I am currently re-reading the book The 8th Habit, From Effectiveness to Greatness, by Stephen Covey who wrote back in 1989 The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I have studied this book for over 15 years now, and I think it is really the best one out there, besides my book Creating Magic, of course.  It is simple and straightforward and is something that everyone could find useful in becoming a better leader.  The 8th Habit is also thought-provoking.  I liked one definition of leadership that Stephen Covey mentions in this new book.  He defines leadership this way:  “Leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they come to see it in themselves.” This ties in nicely with the first strategy in my book, “Remember Everyone Is Important.”


If every one of our managers had understood this clearly, then I think I would have started to see some different, more proactive behaviors in the ones who did not practice this kind of leadership.


Maybe you could leave a copy of this article on your manager’s desk every morning for 30 days if your manager is not great . . . and perhaps he or she would get the point.  Remember that old TV commercial where someone would leave a can of Right Guard deodorant on a friend’s desk because telling him or her face to face was just too difficult?


How are you and your leaders doing in the following areas?

  • Helping to train and develop fellow team members 
  • Having high integrity
  • Being a good manager. 
  • Being available
  • Being trusted 

 Back when we did a Cast survey, about 15% were not doing so well in these areas.


Actually 85% of the 36,000 Cast Members who took the survey said that they would work for their Leader again if they had the choice.  I don’t think that the other 15% of managers wanted to be thought of as average or poor leaders.


There are many reasons that some leaders are perceived the way that they are. 

  • Some are disorganized and feel out of control because of their workload.
  • Others are just not very good at paying attention to others.  Often they are preoccupied because they are so focused on their management work that they forget to pay attention to their leadership work, which is the emotional well-being of their fellow Cast Members.
  • Some managers are just in the wrong kind of work and should not be in leadership positions, and each year many come to this conclusion and move on or into a technical role where they can perform without any responsibility for leading and inspiring people.


Yet each year many managers become better leaders and continue to make improvements in all parts of their roles in management.  I assure you that it is vital  to continually be focused on moving managers up to leaders so that  all can say that we have a great leader.  Some managers will never get there and many will.  This is a slow process. It is like raising responsible children….it takes many years.


I assure you that we did deal with leaders who were performing below expectations, and we  workrf  hard to move good managers up to being great leaders.  This subject was one of my main focuses.


As you know, our model for success at Disney was that Leadership comes first! Just make sure that you are doing the best job that you personally can, and don’t let yourself be affected by someone else’s performance.  I know this is hard . . . but it is possible!   . . . Lee

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