Earlier today, Disney announced that Tom Staggs, Disney’s current Chief Operating Officer and likely candidate to take Bob Iger’s CEO spot when he retires in 2018, stepped down.
“Disney truly stands alone, not only because of the Company’s phenomenal creativity, but also because of the thousands of remarkable people who make it such an extraordinary place,” said Staggs in a statement.
“It’s been a privilege to work with them and be inspired by their creativity and commitment. It’s also been a great experience to work with Bob during this dynamic era of unprecedented growth and transformation. I remain grateful for that opportunity, and I’m confident that Disney’s future will be just as exciting as its legendary past.”
Staggs really made Disney’s past exciting and legendary. Since starting at Disney back in 1990, he caused incredible growth to happen across many of Disney’s businesses. From corporate business development to theme park and resort enhancement, he did it all. He did so much and carried all that success that Iger made him COO just last year. His departure still remains a mystery.
Disney has not cited why Staggs would be leaving, but the New York Times who first reported Staggs departure said that it was probably pressure by Disney Board of Directors, some of which thought Staggs was not perfect for the role. After a year of observing his performance as Iger’s right-hand-man, perhaps they didn’t see a reflection of Iger in Staggs.
It seem as though that is the goal of those responsible on the Board for identifying the next CEO candidates is to find the next Bob Iger, in life and in spirit. Iger has led Disney to 300% growth in its overall value since taking the reigns back in 2010. Through his thoughtful and strategic plans, Disney’s future is a confident one. The confident one that Staggs stated in his departure announcement today.
Even though the Board has made its decision, perhaps they made their decision with the wrong lenses.
I believe that the best businesses are the ones that have leaders who can inspire by leading in creative and bold ways. Iger’s main strategy of purchasing major film studios to then have those films live out as different products under the Disney banner is one of those ways. But it remains just one way.
Let’s be honest – Disney’s future cannot be tied to purchasing other people’s creativity forever. New strategies and plans will need to be dreamt up and those usually come from new people. New people can lend an outside perspective to lead and help grow any task at hand. I’m confident that if the Board would have given Staggs more of a chance to examine and then offer up plans, he would have made a huge impact on Disney’s businesses both outside and in.
The biggest example of that would be his shepherding of the Shanghai Disney Resort project. He, along with Iger, worked together for years to make that dream (mostly Iger’s) a reality through his business and operations specialties. Now, that Resort will have a grand opening without him being present as his last day at Disney is May 6.
The irony continues as history seems to now repeat itself with Disney’s transfer of executive power. I’d argue and say that’s mostly due to a lot of other high-level leaders at Disney, namely its Board of Directors, believe that Disney has been doing so well the way it has been run. The Iger way.
But if they really want to see Walt’s company grow in the long term, they ought to find new people with new perspectives, strategies, and plans in the short term. According to today’s statement, it seems like they acknowledge that saying the Disney Board “will broaden the scope of its succession planning process to identify and evaluate a robust slate of candidates for consideration.” Sadly, they didn’t see the new that Staggs would bring and that’s the problem.
Sure – Tom Staggs wasn’t Bob Iger, but a Bob Iger type could have been Tom Staggs.
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