Guest speaker for the fourth Educators’ Summit, Rob Morton from Disney Institute, shares his insights on leadership excellence.
By Yong Yung Shin
With a complex and ever-evolving world comes leadership challenges that can by no means be addressed in a general, straight-forward manner. The fourth Educators’ Summit on March 16, which caters mainly to public sector executives and educators, will distill some of the best leadership practices from corporate movers and shakers in various industries. The full-day event, organized by Impactus!, will feature Member of Parliament Penny Low as guest-of-honor, senior consultant of Disney Institute Rob Morton, executive director of Far East Organization Lucas Chow and senior vice-president of Banyan Tree Holdings Ltd Claire Chiang, among others.
Here is Morton’s take on the challenges of being a leader as well as the difference between managers and leaders.
What do you do as a senior consultant at the Disney Institute?
My role is to help organizations benchmark the best practices of The Walt Disney Company and identify adaptations to their business. This can be provided through a variety of formats, from short presentations to multi-phase consultancy solutions and everything in between.
The Disney Institute has been sharing its best practices for over 25 years, with clients around the globe and across many different industries that have found value in taking a peek behind the Disney curtain to look at the real work required to make a business successful. Among the best practices that are most relevant to other organizations are recruitment and selection strategies for finding “right fit” talent, communication principles, rewards and recognition, and quality service standards. They are simple by design and are therefore adaptable across many industries and organizations.
What are some leadership approaches you have gleaned from your seniors?
My current leader gives us permission to make mistakes. In preparing for my assignment in Singapore, I joked, “I hope I don’t mess up so bad that you want to bring me home.” His response: “If you don’t make mistakes while you are there, you aren’t trying hard enough to try new things.”
What has been one of the most difficult decisions you’ve had to make as a leader in your sphere of influence?
Disney is a real business with real business issues. The most difficult are those decisions that are completely out of your direct control. For example, in the post-911 economy, we had to make very challenging decisions about how to manage our short-term business objectives without sacrificing our ability to bounce back when things got better.
During these times, it helped to have a proven approach to help leaders like me make decisions in a very balanced way—we always consider the impact of what we do to our guests (customers), cast members (employees), and financial results. This is something everyone understands, so even the most difficult decisions are respected.
What do you observe as the one biggest stumbling block for leaders?
One of the biggest stumbling blocks I often see are leaders who are not willing to look in the mirror to consider their own leadership behavior and the effect it has on others. The people we lead are ultimately going to judge us on what we do, so it is critical to look at ourselves from the outside in.
Do you think it’s more challenging to be a leader today as compared to, say, 20 or 30 years ago?
Being a great leader has always been challenging. In today’s business environment, the challenges tend to come much faster. When I began my career, there were many great managers, but not as many great leaders.
Managers tend to focus on getting results, sometimes by whatever means necessary. Leaders also achieve results, but they do so by inspiring others with a clear and compelling vision, an effective organizational structure, and high levels of employee engagement. The effectiveness of a leader lives on through his or her legacy.
The fourth Educators’ Summit will be held on Mar. 16, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Orchard Parade Hotel. S$350. Log on to www.impactus-sg.com for more information.