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Mickey’s 10 Commandments – Tips from a Disney Imagineer

Last week, Bowen Moran asked, “What Would Walt Do?” as a launching pad for discussing the leadership style of Walt Disney. Yesterday, I had the privilege of hearing a keynote speech by
Disney Legend Marty Sklar at the IPMA-HR Western Region conference. One of the original Imagineers working with Walt
Disney in the early 1950s, Marty spoke about the flip side of
leadership, sharing “Mickey’s Ten Commandments” for Followership:

1. SPEAK UP! Great teammates raise issues before decision are made!

2. Never be afraid to ask questions. That’s how we learn our parts – on stage and backstage.

3. Make your experience count (that’s why you’re on the team).

4. Help the rookie succeed – you were “new” once, too.

5. Understand your role – everyone has a job to do.

6. Never fear failure – winners sometimes fail too!

7. But – know when to “take a chance” (and always lets your leaders you’re doing it).

8. Play by the rules. If you disagree, work to change them after the game.

9. Share the joy of success – you didn’t do it by yourself!

10. Support your teammates – at Disney, there’s only one name on the door.

Here are another handful of magical insights I gleaned from his presentation:

Start a “Clean Page Club” at your office – people who get energized by starting something new.

People can feel perfection. Pay close attention to detail.

Define your story. Have the vision of success in mind before you begin.

Pick the right cast of characters. Awesome actors are the key to a great show.

Be more than an optimist be an optimal behaviorist. Do one important thing every day.

Of course, good followers often make great leaders, too.

So what do you think – are you a good follower?

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Beth Beck

Disney has ALWAYS been my dream job (until we started partnering with Disney and I realized they are a bureaucracy like NASA and any large organization.) But still — DISNEY, the land of imagineering!!!! (Wait. Does that mean NASA is the universe of engineering?) 😉

Thanks for sharing these tips!

I totally agree with all the points (except maybe “play by the rules”…because sometimes you need to wiggle around rules that exist in someone’s mind — culture rules). Of all the points, I think “Define your Story” and “Pick the right Cast” are crucial to any new undertaking.

I also think the best leaders know how to follow. The skill of following makes a better leader because “leading” doesn’t come from ego and the need to be out front. Leading is all about having the vision, capability, stamina, and people skills to get things done when no one else can. If someone else can do it, the leader follows…and leads in the vacuum where need exists.

I’d like to know more about the “Clean Page Club.” How does that work?

Amanda Blount

I love this. I may use this in an upcoming presentation! Good stuff! And yes, I try to be a good follower. Sometimes I find myself trying to lead when It is not my place… so I step back and let the leader have their day in the sunshine. I try to take the stance that if a decision the leader is making may not work, but also may not kill anyone, then let’s try it anyway. If it does work, we found a new way to do things, if it doesn’t work, no one got killed, and other than that almost everything else can be fixed.

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

Let me turn this observation around – what is it that prevents government agencies from being more like Disney? I ask because the above list of traits seems relatively easy to implement.