The Disney Company has had two charismatic leaders in its history: Walt Disney and Michael Eisner. Disney's tenure was followed by lackluster performance at the company after his death, and none of the executives at the organization possessed a personality strong enough to bring the company out of its malaise. It took an outsider, from the movie industry, to help the company not only regain its former glory, but move forward to become one of the largest entertainment companies in the United States.
Michael Eisner accomplished this change in the company through charismatic leadership; it remains to be seen whether he has provided the company with the transformational leadership necessary to see it into the next century.
The Disney Company, which was built on the strength of an animated mouse, has had two leaders in its history: Walt Disney and Michael Eisner. There were other executives who tended the company after Walt Disney's death in the mid-1960s, but the company foundered without a strong leader until Eisner took over in the mid-1980s. Both Disney and Eisner used transformational leadership to provide direction to the company, but it was Eisner who led the company out of the doldrums and helped to shape it into a media giant. This research examines the leadership style of Eisner, and the factors which contribute to his success at Disney.
Charismatic leadership, in which the personality of the leader provides the motivation for personal loyalty and performance beyond expectation by subordinates, is sometimes considered a subset of the broader category of transformational leadership (Luthans, 1995, p. 357). Charismatic leadership theories hold that charismatic leaders are able to inspire their subordinates through sheer will of personality; through this personality, they communicate their vision and inspire personal loyalty among their workers. There are disadvantages to this type of leadership, however; most notab...