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How Robert Iger Thinks


Robert Iger is the Chairman and CEO of The Walt Disney Company, the world’s largest media corporation. He began his career as a weatherman for a local television station, joined the American Broadcasting Company in 1974 and gradually rose through the ranks. Among his numerous achievements, Iger was named the MarketWatch “CEO of the Year” in 2006 and “CEO of the Year” by Chief Executive Magazine in 2014. In June 2010, President Obama appointed him to the President’s Export Council, to advise him about promoting U.S. exports, jobs, and growth. So how does this remarkable CEO think?

I conducted an analysis of Iger’s thinking during Disney’s 2013, 2014, and 2015 first quarter earnings conference calls.  I rated his prepared presentation and off-the-cuff comments according to our proprietary Hierarchy of Thinking Styles.

The analysis revealed primarily extraordinary positive thinking, with approximately the same amount of Optimal Thinking and moderate positive thinking combined.

How Robert Iger Thinks

Embracing new technology, Iger has made Disney an industry leader with creative content on new and multiple platforms. As an extraordinary positive thinker, Iger thrives on rising above the status quo to create enduring differentiation and outstanding attractions.  He utilizes extraordinary positive thinking to articulate new expansions, world-class resources, and exceptional outcomes.

Iger uses words like “huge”, “stunning”, “spectacular”, and  “staggering”.  He also uses phrases such as “compelling value”, “fantastic success story”, “extraordinary portfolio”, “tremendous franchise”, “especially pleased”, and  “tremendous success”.

He deploys moderate positive thinking to communicate incremental progress.

on the TV front, we launched or we relaunched a channel a few years back called Disney XD, which had other names in its past. If Disney Channel is focused a little bit more on girls than boys, this is going to be focused a little bit more on boys than girls.

In fiscal 2014, this seasoned leader was the steward of Disney’s record revenue, net income, and earnings per share for the fourth year in a row. His strategic vision for The Walt Disney Company is based on three fundamental pillars: generating the best creative content possible (optimal thinking), fostering innovation (extraordinary positive thinking) and utilizing the latest technology (optimal thinking), and expanding into new markets around the world (extraordinary positive thinking).

Why Robert Iger Needs Optimal Thinking

Optimal Thinking is the mental basis of peak performance.  It empowers us to be our best and stops us from settling for second best.

Iger deploys Optimal Thinking to demonstrate Disney’s best acquisitions, most enduring assets and unparalleled results. He uses words like “maximize”, “largest”, “right”, and  “greatest”.  He also deploys phrases such as “unparalleled brand strength”, “our unrivaled content pipeline”, “there is no better example”, “the ultimate impact”, “the most successful animated movie of all time”, and “our most popular attractions”.

Iger skillfully employs Optimal Thinking to define Disney’s values, benchmarks, direction and successes.

In Star Wars, there is no stronger IP in terms of the passion that people have for storytelling characters and a brand

.. fiscal 2014 was the biggest year in the history of the Walt Disney Company with operating income up 21% to over $13 billion and adjusted EPS up 27% to $4.32.

Iger also employs Optimal Thinking to demonstrate leadership in innovation and describe Disney’s most successful growth initiatives.

.. Shanghai Disneyland represents our best international growth initiative in a long time.

While extraordinary positive thinking empowers Robert Iger to achieve outstanding results, it does not empower him to be his best and create the best possible outcomes. Optimal Thinkers validate the extraordinary positive thinking employed to establish outstanding systems, think outside the box, and create progress. Optimal Thinkers optimize all levels of performance by consistently focusing on the best solutions.

How Do You Think?

To definitively assess your thinking and compare it to how Robert Iger thinks, take the Optimal Thinking 360 Assessment now. I created this assessment for my executive coaching clients over 26 years. More than one million executives and 6500 companies have used this proprietary assessment to uncover their primary thinking style, thinking profiles, core motivation, decision-making and communication styles, and how to best interact with others.  Take this risk-free assessment (designed for desktops and tablets) on your own as a Self-Optimization Assessment or with your team as a 360 to confirm your strengths and weaknesses, discover your blind spots, and optimize every situation.

The transcripts used in this article are © 2013, 2014, 2015.

This article is part of our How CEOs Think article series.

If you would like to nominate a well-known leader for a thinking analysis, feel free to include them in your comments below.

4 Responses to “How Robert Iger Thinks”

  1. Charlie Rogers says:

    Iger understands the value of extraordinary content. Disney continues to lead.

  2. Brad Rollings says:

    Bob Iger is a strong leader with a great brand. But it has become a nightmare to get into Disney parks. the lines are too long even with the express passes. He needs to use some optimal thinking to overcome this problem.

  3. Brian Campbell says:

    I’ve been an investor in Disney since Eisner’s days at the helm. This is an enlightening article. It makes a lot of sense.

  4. Sharon Lee says:

    I was associated with Disney for 5 years until last year and was fascinated by your analysis. His presentation in earnings conference calls is usually extraordinary but day to day, I’ll bet my bottom dollar he’s an optimal thinker. He’s a master at maximizing resources to get the best results.

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