Michael Eisner's Best & Worst Decision: The Advent & Departure of Judson Green

Michael Eisner's Best & Worst Decision: The Advent & Departure of Judson Green

In honor of the passing of Judson Green this week, we look not just at his contribution to the Walt Disney Company, but the standard of leadership ideals he sought to put in place. An accomplished jazz musician and composer, he knew as more about the “show” in show business than most any Disney executive. He led an organization to accomplish great things in building out the Disney Decade in the parks world-wide as president and chairman of Walt Disney Attractions. We look at his perspectives around performance excellence and his legacy. And we learn why his advent and departure was what I believe the best and worst decision Michael Eisner ever made.

You can find this podcast here on PodbeaniTunesSpotifyMyTuner, and ListenNotes. The total story along with its highs and lows is shared there, but I have kept Judson’s quotes below, as well as takeaways that everyone can learn from his life experience. The following were quotations we shared of Judson at The Disney Institute:

“In the future, it will be critically important for us to focus not only on achieving the business results, but on how we achieve those results.”

“I believe we have the oportunity–and the duty–to fashion an organization where everyone is involved, everyone is fully engaged, and everyone is a player.”

“We proved with hard data that great leadership, Cast excellence, Guest satisfaction, and the bottom line are inextricably linked.”

In an article penned by his alma mater, Depauw University, where he would eventually served as the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Judson noted this about jazz and leadership:

“If you have a foundation and you’re going to play a 32-bar tune, and you’re going to play it very simply and we agree on the time and the key, we even agree on the leader … then, at least in jazz, you’re basically free to do anything you want to do. And each musician can be as creative as he or she wants to be, but they have to align themselves with the few principles – the foundation that I’m talking about – in order to enable creativity, in order to encourage it. I liked the beauty of that.”

In business, “you want people to be free and creative and pursue what they think is right – but nonetheless be grounded in something, grounded in some beliefs that they can buy into.”

Souvenirs for Your Organization

I share all of this in the context it was given because I think there are lessons here for anyone’s life. Ask yourself the following:

  • How do I balance getting results with working effectively with others?
  • How do I connect effective leadership with an engaged workforce?
  • Given the required structure, do I give freedom for my employees to play the music they are gifted to play at work?
  • Will I be remembered as one who fostered the development of other leaders?
  • What legacy will I leave as a leader?

As an afterward, allow me to say that Judson deserves to be posthumously honored as a Disney Legend, and with a Window in every park he played a key role in, particularly the Magic Kingdom, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and Hong Kong Disneyland. That window should be partially opened, and from it jazz music playing.

More Leadership Insights

There’s more insights like this, not just from one leader, but from nearly 100 leaders that have defined the Walt Disney Company over the years. From Walt Disney, to imagineers, to animators and performers, the company’s success has been made real by the labor and leadership of not just a CEO, but of so many. Learn those lessons of leadership when you read.

Disney, Leadership and You
Disney, Leadership and You, written by J. Jeff Kober.

J. Jeff Kober