Case Analysis #1 – Michael Eisner
Michael Eisner was the CEO of Disney and had received accolades high and low. In 2004, he was voted the Worst CEO by Forbes magazine. However, in the past he had risen Paramount’s prestige by lowering the overall budget costs of film production. His leadership abilities were natural and streamlined, and perhaps they offered flexibility in the wrong areas. Eisner’s prowess was ultimately overshadowed by his daunting tasks at Disney, and despite his initial success, his legacy will be curved unfavorably for those to see.
Michael Eisner rose to prominence by assisting Paramount Pictures with their film production costs (Michell, 2). When he was hired as the CEO of Disney, he helped pioneer iconic movies including “Beauty and the Beast” (Michell, 2). He was also in charge of the acquisition of major cable channels, including ABC and ESPN.
Despite Eisner’s initial success, he quickly fell from the annals of success with his rigid leadership style. Even after all of his initial achievements, Forbes had once again ranked him “Worst CEO”. His leadership abilities reflect a very distinct type of command. According to the Harvard Business Journal by Daniel Goleman, Eisner seemed to reflect an authoritative leadership style. In this type of leadership, the leader sets goals and endpoints, however gives the team flexibility to reach this goal and therefore the goal will have distinct uniqueness throughout the process (Goleman, 2). This leadership style helps establish the big picture and what the overall sight of the mission is, while at the same time pressing team members to make decisive initiatives that are for the betterment for the company. For example, Eisner felt that there should be a certain amount of “friction and conflict” were necessary for positive and creative growth (Eisner, 5). Eisner thought that delay was sometimes key to success, rather than a decisive decision that could be hasty or rushed.
Eisner could ultimately be seen as someone with an authoritative leadership style, he built and generated a vision and then established goals along the way. However, just because this style was his traditional style, does not necessarily constitute to being a strong leadership style. His constant reiteration that there should be some “friction” can be detrimental to the overall group demeanor and goal. Leaders with powerful prestige tend to allow group members active engagement, Eisner’s constant abruptness and abrasive oversight of other coworker’s relationships caused for the resignation of prominent board members (Michell, 11). His incessant micro-management lost the morality of his team according to Roy Disney (Michell, 12). Goleman might offer a more resolute leadership class in the terms of Affiliative Style; this style definitely resonates as an altruistic method. A people come first mentality, it allows those in the group to be more receptive of other’s ideas, and it is a much stronger free flowing leadership builder (Goleman, 1). Eisner should see dissent as an opportunity to grow, and allow these differing opinions to be anchors to hinge on rather than unearthing them.
Eisner’s ultimate uprooting was his perilous relationship with Steve Jobs and Pixar. His firm leadership style ultimately led to Steve Jobs resignation, and the creation of Pixar as a creative film giant. Instead of attempting to rebuild the relationship for the betterment of the company, he let the company not reach a contract agreement in 2004 (Michell, 7). These negotiations, ultimately would be the catalyst to Eisner’s ranking as Worst CEO. Despite their paramount success with Toy Story in the 90s, Eisner could not hold Pixar to any negotiable agreements, and his fall from grace was potent.
All in all, Eisner’s initial success was fiery, passionate, and short-lived. Eisner showed that he could generate massive upturn in a short period of time with his prowess and Paramount Pictures and his beginnings at Disney. However, his rigidness and leadership skillset really limited his ability to grow and did not allow retention of a long-lived victory. Had he adapted or changed his leadership style to that of something more affiliative, he could have made amends with Steve Jobs and perhaps prevented the creation of Pixar. His inability to embrace change in the management position hindered his overall legacy. His loyalty and prowess in the company could have been enhanced by utilizing a different leadership style, specifically the affiliative one, and perhaps the Disney name would have increased in overall popularity had Eisner been more adaptive.