|Type of paper:||Book review|
|Categories:||Company Biography Personal leadership Books|
The Ride of a Lifetime is a memoir by Robert Iger that documents his leadership and success. Until February 2020, Iger was the executive chairman of Disney and was named the 2019 Times Businessperson of the year (Luscombe). In the book, he shares the values and ideas he embraced in his 15-year tenure as CEO, a time during which he reinvented one of the best-known companies globally. Owing to his experience and success, the book is a must-read for any aspiring corporate leader. His accounts of the humble beginnings at ABC also serve as great inspiration for any individual seeking to scale the heights of their careers. As Iger puts it, the book is for "anyone wanting to feel less fearful, more confidently themselves, as they navigate their professional and even personal lives" (Iger 4). In this light, this paper seeks to offer an in-depth review of this book.
Structure of the Book
The 272-page book published by Random House is divided into two parts. Part one of the book is called Learning and focuses on the author's beginnings. He also talks about depending on one's talent and what one knows in chapters two and three, respectively. His entrance into Disney is detailed in chapter four, while chapter five records his rise to be the second in line at the company.
Part two of the book focuses on his leadership at Disney. He talks of the power of respect, integrity, innovation, and other core values he employed in his leadership. He also speaks of some of the most significant risks he took while at the helm of the company. This part also exposes the thinking behind some of the greatest deals that Iger sealed. Other than the vital lessons that the book offers, it also gives the reader a feel of the stress that comes with being at the top of a company as big as Disney. For instance, the author discloses a moment when he thought he had a heart attack, only to realize it was a panic attack. However, though the book significantly covers Iger's business skill and acumen, it does little to help understand the man. Throughout the book, Iger is so guarded on what he reveals. He also does not reveal much about his family. For instance, his description of his mother can be described as one-dimensional at best. He also does not go into great detail concerning his father's mental disorder, which undoubtedly affected his life. It does also not escape the eye of a keen reader that Iger senior is not listed in the book's index.
The power of humble beginnings is arguably one of the greatest lessons one gets from the book. His work-life started with taking part-time jobs, such as working as a janitor at 15. His entry into the media industry was also difficult. He records that Katzenberg once told him that he should quit the industry altogether and focus on rehabilitating his image. He also gives his accounts as a weatherman and junior staffer at ABC. However, it is from this humble beginning that Iger rose to the position of ABC entertainment president in 1989, before rising to become the network's president (Luscombe). He documents his almost ten years under the combative Michael Eisner. He would later ascend to the very summit of the company following the resignation of Eisner (Holson).
Insight into Leadership
The aspects of leadership presented in this book are arguably its strongest part. Iger took over the company in 2005 when it was facing various internal challenges, and technology was drastically changing (Pallotta and Stelter). His vision for the new position was to focus on quality, embrace technology more, and think globally. Iger succeeded in turning Disney into one of the most admired and biggest media companies in the world. In the process, the company acquired properties such as Marvel, Pixar, 21st Century, and Lucasfilm. Its value grew almost fivefold, and Iger is considered to be one of the most successful and innovative CEOs of his generation (Pallotta and Stelter). As such, Iger is an unquestionable voice in matters of leadership. To this end, he makes his point in an easily understood manner. Most notably, the writer does not preach about his lessons and achievements. Instead, he makes use of real-life examples to demonstrate how to manage the creative process, create a unique culture, and negotiate difficult personalities. These insights are hugely helpful to anyone who dreams of being a leader in their own spaces.
In a world that is drastically changing, innovation is often the line that separates organizations that succeed from those that fail. Chapter 12, therefore, is really insightful as the author takes the reader through the concept of innovation. While the traditional strategies were still working for Disney when he ascended to its leadership, Iger saw the need to get ahead of the other players in the industry and develop technologies that would help the company deliver its content without necessarily having to depend on intermediaries. The disruptive innovation ultimately worked for the company. In 2017 again, he decided to purchase a high stake in BAMTech to support his vision to launch ESPN and Disney streaming services. The move led to the birth of Disney+. In taking some of these risks, Iger was ready to accept losses in the short-term with the hope that future growth would make up for it. The gamble paid and stands as a huge lesson for leaders. From this chapter, executives also learn that disruption is inevitable. Leaders in industries vulnerable to disruption, therefore, can either choose to ignore it, take defensive steps, or go on the offensive. However, learning from Iger's achievements, studying the market to predict disruption before it occurs, is usually the best path to follow.
Negotiation and dealing with different personalities also comes across as one of the most essential skills that a leader must possess. For instance, Iger documents the moments he had to deal with Steve Jobs, the CEO of Pixar, diplomatically. In the course of the various purchases he made, he also had to deal with difficult people such as Ike Perlmutter of Marvel Entertainment. Moreover, he had to defend his decisions to some of his biggest critics. For example, there were threats to thwart the company's efforts to create Black Panther. He managed to overcome these hurdles, and the film was a huge success. Other vital values that Iger discuss in the book are optimism, courage, focus, decisiveness, curiosity, authenticity, and fairness. He also mentions that integrity and consistent pursuit of perfection significantly contributed to his success (Iger 8).
Lack of Emotions
However, the author fails to dive into some issues and moments deep enough. The result is a book that is generally devoid of emotion. Characters are a major aspect of any good story. While Iger introduces some well-known figures in the book, such as Steve Jobs, he brings in other characters without giving sufficient introduction or backstory. While he spends a considerable amount of time talking about his father and some of his most successful hires, the reader would also like to know more about his wife, as well as the relationship he had with his colleagues. He should also have given a name and a face to some of the greatest animators he worked with at Disney. Since characters are a central part of storytelling at Disney, one would expect Iger to give more complete characters. The lack of sufficient characterization in the reader often leads to confusion in the mind of the reader since the backgrounds and motivations of the different characters are not adequately set apart. Besides, Iger does not sufficiently delve into storytelling and creative strategies, a side that could have hooked the reader more. Generally, apart from the opening scene and the final conversation that Iger has with Roone, the rest of the book bears little or no emotion. Moments that could be potentially emotional are described without much detail, making it difficult for the reader to understand the inner conflict, or feel the author's emotions. For instance, a description of John Lasseter's departure lacks sufficient buildup to generate much emotion within the reader.
Though it might look like the book was primarily meant for corporate ladder climbers, reading it reveals that it is a useful read for anyone seeking to be confident in various spheres of their lives. It provides practical examples of the values that one must embrace to achieve success. However, while the book is undoubtedly a good read, Iger is too private, modest, and decent. Though he highlights various successes and failures, joys and frustrations, the reader is left with a feeling that quite a lot has been unsaid.
Holson, Laura M. "A Quiet Departure for Eisner at Disney." The New York Times. 26. Sept. 2005, <https://www.nytimes.com/2005/09/26/business/media/a-quiet-departure-for-eisner-at-disney.html>.
Iger, Robert. The Ride of a Lifetime. New York: Random House, 2019. <https://read.amazon.com/?asin=B07PF6XTD8>.
Luscombe, Belinda. "Businessperson of the Year - Bob Iger." Time. 2019, <https://time.com/businessperson-of-the-year-2019-bob-iger/>.
Pallotta, Frank and Brian Stelter. "Bob Iger steps down as Disney CEO. Bob Chapek replaces him." CNN Business. 26. Feb. 2020, <https://edition.cnn.com/2020/02/25/media/bob-iger-bob-chapek-disney-ceo/index.html>.
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