Disney Leadership Lessons from a Father’s Perspective

We did it! We loaded up the mini-van with our five kids, made the two-day journey to Disney World, spent five straight days in four different parks, and returned home intact. This was our “once in the family history” Disney adventure. It was well worth it. Also, I figure I should add to the plethora of Disney leadership lessons by adding my own perspective. I am going to share with you from a father’s perspectives three leadership lessons that I discovered.

Be in Awe

Disney is a magical place. I discovered this on our first family ride in DinoLand at Animal Kingdom called Dinosaurs. The animatronics dinosaurs mesmerized me as we journeyed through the lost world. Throughout the week we went on rides, went to shows, and experienced one moment of “awe” after another from the activities. However, the viewpoint that I discovered quickly is that I needed to pay close attention to my family (my team). If my only focus was on the activity, I was going to miss the more important part of the experience – my kids’ responses to the experience. I need to be in awe of them as much or more than the event.

As a leader, we need to be in “awe” of our teams. The only way we can do this is to keep focused on the responses, interactions, and emotions of the people around us as they are doing their daily activities. If we only look at the “activity,” we will have missed the opportunity to fully engage and influence our teams.

Tip: Hug and kiss your kids and/or spouse at least once every time you wait in line.


Slay the Dragon

Disney is full of evil characters: villains, witches, and beasts. Along with these characters, Disney is filled with dragons. These dragons are on every corner and street at every moment. These are the dragons of tiredness, impatience, irritation, confusion, and disrupted plans. The dragons are manifested in the parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and kids seeking the thrill of the Magic Kingdom but not quite getting it at the moment. I have to confess, these dragons showed up in our family a few times. The truth is that these dragons will show up. What was critical is that we (my wife and I), found a way to defeat the dragons when they showed up. To defeat a dragon you have to have the right weapon. We discovered the weapon to defeat these Disney dragons was pausing with empathy and care. Anytime, I ignored or disregarded the dragon, it got bigger.

Our teams are also going to experience these dragons of tiredness, impatience, irritation, confusion, and disrupted plans. It is our responsibility to pause with empathy and care. If we ignore or disregard the dragons at work, they will grow and become even more difficult to defeat.

Tip: Go to the shows. They are amazing and you can take a quick nap and no one will know.


Dance in the Rain

We experienced glorious weather at Disney until the afternoon of our last day. We were at Hollywood Studios finishing up lunch when the rain began. It started off as a drizzle and progressed to heavy precipitation throughout the afternoon and evening. We geared up in our rain ponchos and continued on. At dinner, the irritation of the rain began to bubble up. I felt myself getting frustrated with the rain and the complaining that was coming from some of the “team” members. I remember stopping and thinking that I can either be ticked at the rain or appreciate the moment. There was absolutely nothing I could do to stop the rain, so I started looking at the beauty of the moment. My view of the circumstances changed, my words changed, and my last few hours at Disney were spectacular. At 8:40 p.m. as the rain came down, we watched the amazing fireworks go off to music from Frozen.   I thought how blessed I am to be here at this moment “to dance in the rain” with the most important people in my life.

Your teams are going to experience challenges. The storm of work is going to come. As a leader it is your responsibility to see things from a different perspective, adjust your attitude, and communicate in a way that helps people see the beauty in the moment.

Tip: Purchase $1 ponchos before you go and wear them when needed.

Leadership development is a journey and adventure. Take your family to Disney to mature in your leadership skills and do not forget to practice Being in Awe, Slaying the Dragon, and Dancing in the Rain!