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Leadership 101: Preparing the Leaders of Tomorrow Starts Today

February 06, 2018 by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute

Walt Disney once said, “In this volatile business of ours, we can ill afford to rest on our laurels, even to pause in retrospect. Times and conditions change so rapidly that we must keep our aim constantly focused on the future.” Walt knew that change happens constantly and that it is unavoidable; and he wanted his team to be well-prepared for the future.

As Disney leaders, a large part of our responsibility is to ensure that we too are intentionally developing the leaders of tomorrow so that they can continue to carry out the company’s vision. At Disney Institute, we teach business professionals in our Disney’s Approach to Leadership Excellence training course that you will develop leaders quickly by embedding leadership development into the fabric of the organization, not simply confining leadership development to a single training initiative.

One way we have found to effectively embed leadership development is through mentorships. Recently, I was reading an Inc. Article on what it means to prepare employees for the future and how to be an effective mentor. A few key points that stood out to me were:

  • Effective mentors deploy empathy and humility; they realize it’s about the mentee not themselves.
  • Effective mentors have a genuine desire to help the mentee and advise him or her.
  • An effective mentorship equates to the legacy you’re leaving: this is what people say about you when you’re not around. 

An illustration of these key points, that I’m very familiar with, is a formal intern mentorship program developed internally by a small group of individuals who had a vision and took the initiative to be part of the solution for our team. Each semester, as new professional interns arrive here at Disney Institute, they are deliberately matched with a mentor—a full-time Cast Member who is not the intern’s direct leader, who can build a relationship with their mentee and help them begin to expand their network.

Prospective mentors demonstrate their passion and commitment by first applying for the opportunity to become part of the program. Once accepted, they are intentionally paired with a new intern based on the skills and experience that they can offer. The goal is that mentors will provide interns with additional knowledge and feedback that can help them grow beyond their day-to-day responsibilities.

Throughout their tenure, interns meet periodically with their mentors to seek advice and discuss career aspirations. Mentors also guide their interns through meaningful growth opportunities, such as creating and delivering an impactful business presentation. For this specific project, each intern is responsible for researching and developing a unique idea or solution that they think would improve the overall business and drive results, and then they present their findings during a formal presentation to senior leaders. 

Recognizing the level of commitment required, an important outcome of this program is that it’s just as beneficial for the mentors! Some mentors may be working on developing their own personal leadership skills and this can be an effective way to prepare them for the next step in their own careers. In fact, one mentor responded to the end-of-semester survey by saying, “I learned as much as my mentee did.”

From team outings with other mentors and interns to monthly “Lunch and Learn” sessions, this program focuses on many aspects of leadership development to make sure it’s a consistent and valuable growth opportunity for everyone involved. By building this program and embedding mentorship into the cultural fabric of Disney Institute, we believe we can continue to develop effective leaders who genuinely care for each other and will carry on Walt’s legacy of leadership excellence well into the future.

Think about it: How can you begin today to develop the leaders of tomorrow at your organization?

If you would like to learn more about establishing values-infused leadership, check out our Disney’s Approach to Leadership Excellence professional development training course. Or, bring our team to yours to for a full cultural transformation through a private initiative for your organization


Disney Institute is ready to help you apply strategic rigor to your customer experience efforts - call us at 321.939.4600 or complete our Contact Form




Posted in Leadership Excellence | Tagged Leadership Excellence, Leadership Development, Leadership Training, Leadership 101, Employee Engagement, Mentorship, Mentor Program, Bruce Jones


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