The Ride of a Lifetime is a blend of autobiography, leadership manual, and historical non-fiction. The book covers Iger’s own career story with a more recent history of the Disney companies and while doing so, delivers a full load of leadership counsel.
One of the biggest values in this book is how it delivers on candor. It’s rare to hear a Fortune 100 CEO talk openly about emotional values like relationships, integrity and trust – and perhaps that’s what makes this so readable. Iger freely shares conversations and decisions that feel “behind-the-scenes.” At every turning point, he acknowledges the role relationships played in successful outcomes. And repeatedly, Iger comes back to values like empathy and integrity as the root of those relationships and how he leads.
Despite a rocky start, one of the most compelling relationships Iger shares is that with Apple’s Steve Jobs. Notoriously difficult, and already displeased with Disney, Jobs had zero regard for Iger when he became CEO. Iger worked carefully and diligently over many years to forge a new relationship with Jobs – one built on fairness and, straight-talk. The result was the immensely successful acquisition of Pixar, a valuable role on the Disney board for Jobs, and one of the greatest friendships of their lifetimes.
In each major acquisition Disney has made since Iger has become CEO (Pixar, Marvel and Lucasfilm), he notes that the single biggest factor to success was in building trust with their owners and lead talent. Iger acknowledges there were many factors to negotiate, and large teams involved in managing all of the components. But at the end of the day, each of those transformative acquisitions began with Iger’s dedication to preserving the acquired company’s strengths into the combined organization.
Keep it Simple
Iger shares an in-depth look at his vetting process and transition into CEO of Disney. One of the key takeaways from this section is how Iger aligned all of Disney by announcing three clear strategic priorities. Rather than a long list of plans, Iger focused on a specific and concise short list that everyone could contribute to: deliver high-quality content, embrace technology, and become truly global. These three priorities have shaped the last 15 years of Disney’s growth and success.
Follow Your Passion
Iger is an expert storyteller. His career started in television and he’s covered sports across the globe, including the Olympics. He’s led in entertainment, helping create some of the most popular shows on Prime Time. He was CEO of an organization with great storytelling at its core. His whole life’s work was based on a love of storytelling, and at each level, he was able to elevate his role in that endeavor.