14 Apr 7 Leadership Lessons In 7 Days At Disney World

walt disney and mickey mouse photo

For the past week, my family and I had the incredibly opportunity to enjoy Walt Disney World and all that it has to offer. Our trip started with a ton of excitement, as my seven-year-old exclaimed, “I wish that we would get up every day at 2:30am!” Our trip ended with amazement. My bright eyed four-year-old looked up at me and declared, “I want to live here…start saving your money for next year daddy.” For the first time since Rachel and I went on our honeymoon in 2006, I made it a point to disconnect from email and social media to make the most of our time together. It came as no surprise that little to no technology was incredibly refreshing. Did I feel guilty? Yes. Was it worth it? Yes. We spent our time talking and laughing with each other.  We focused on *us*. We created more memories than I could ever write about.

While watching the sun rise during a few early morning runs along the Sassagoula River, I also spent some time alone reflecting about leadership. Below are the 7 leadership lessons that I learned in 7 days at Walt Disney World.

Day 1, Lesson 1:

Leaders embrace the unknown. It was the world famous Walt Disney who said, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” Even though Disney didn’t know what the result would be, he tried something that nobody else was willing to do. The best leaders try things that nobody else dares to do, even when they don’t know what the results will be.

Day 2, Lesson 2:

Leaders are vulnerable. Even Disney makes mistakes. While we were there, a few of the restaurants were inconsistent with what counted and what did not count on our meal plans. The cast apologized and wrote a happy ending to any of our frustrations. The best leaders admit their mistakes and make right their wrongs.

Day 3, Lesson 3:

Leaders let others lead. While I was walking into the Magic Kingdom, I was slowed down by security because selfie sticks were not allowed. Yes, I’m embarrassed to say that I brought my selfie stick.  Thankfully, we had the Memory Maker Photo Pass, which allows you to let the photographers stationed throughout the park lead and create your memory-making photos. The best leaders know when to allow somebody else to lead.

Day 4, Lesson 4:

Leaders engage others. Mickey Mouse & his crew and all of the Disney princesses draw quite a crowd. These characters engaged their adoring fans right from the start … my daughters were star-struck by the cast and were immediately enthralled because, even if only for a few moments, they were suddenly the sole focus.  For that reason, my daughters said that they will never wash their hands again. The best leaders are engaging and memorable.

Day 5, Lesson 5:

Leaders prepare others. Disney prepared us as much as possible with their app, which allowed us to explore the park with maps, locate character greetings, look up wait times for rides and view recently captured Memory Maker pictures. The best leaders prepare and set up others to succeed.

Day 6, Lesson 6:

Leaders attract leaders. If your house is clean, then Disney is surgically clean. Because the cast at Disney tirelessly works to keep the property tidy and inviting, the customers are regularly seen returning the favor by conscientiously cleaning up after themselves. Who you are is who you attract. The best leaders attract leaders.

Day 7, Lesson 7: 

Leaders effectively communicate what’s important. On day one, we were frustrated with some long lines. By day seven, we were thankful for the lines. Why? Because when it’s “your turn”, each and every cast member makes it all about you. The cast members aren’t on their phones. The cast members aren’t rushing to get to the next guest in the line. Even with all of the technological enhancements, real live human beings lead and run Disney. The leadership team at Disney ensures that the “people first” message starts at the top and filters all the way through their 66,000 cast members. The best leaders effectively communicate what’s important.

Throughout this unforgettable trip, I was able to observe, soak in and learn how to be a more effective leader.  More significantly, I was continually reminded of what’s important in my life… spending time with my family. Thank you to my selfless mother and father in-law for making this trip a reality. We all slowed down to speed up. In other words, we all got away from our day-to-day routines and learned just how thankful we are for everything, and more importantly, everyone in our lives.  Time flies at home. Time flies at work. Time flies when you’re having fun. Remember, you don’t have to go to Disney to be present and have fun.

Click to Tweet: You can choose to have fun *right now*. @derekdeprey #movetolivewell

ACTION: Pick one of the seven leadership lessons that you would like to focus on. Then, for the next five minutes, write down as many ways that you can think of to improve in that area.  Next, select the top three of those ways that you can readily start doing to get better. Finally, improve your leadership by doing one thing really well each day for the next 72 hours.

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