How Bob Iger Remade the House That Walt Built

Instead of the easy fixes, Bob Iger played the long game by addressing Disney’s cultural issues head-on, by making it stronger and more profitable with greater depth.

To what degree were you bothered by the fact that your predecessor had made comments that you were not up to the job, combined with press at the time that you were a “well-scripted CEO” but probably not a big, strategic thinker?
I prefer not to comment on or dwell on what any specific person said about me or believed about me when I got the job. I will say that even though I was the only internal candidate, and I knew the company and the board extremely well, there was a desire by many to bring great change to the company, because we had been through what had been a pretty difficult period. There was a feeling that any inside candidate would essentially perpetuate the status quo. This [attitude] motivated me because not only did I feel that I had a lot to prove, but I felt that I had a real opportunity to be an internal change agent. Besides, I was fairly thick-skinned at that point because I had been through a lot of that.

“There was a feeling that any inside candidate would essentially perpetuate the status quo. This [attitude] motivated me. … I felt that I had a real opportunity to be an internal change agent.”

In hindsight, what was the most difficult challenge?
Clearly, it was shifting the culture from a company that did not believe in itself as much as it needed to [do], to a company that believed in itself and its future, was optimistic about its future and respectful of its product and its leadership.

What did you have to do to make that happen?
There were a lot of things. One of them was to redirect or disband, as the company had known it, its strategic planning arm. I thought the individual businesses needed to own more of their strategy, as opposed to being owned by the corporate entity. It was important for each business to take more responsibility and accountability for its own strategy.


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