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What Walt Disney Can Teach Us About Leadership

The following essay is an excerpt from Tony Robbins’ keynote speech at the 7th annual World Government Summit and CEO Conference that took place in Dubai.


It’s such a privilege to be here addressing you today. I’m in deep admiration of the level of resourcefulness and vision of this country [the United Arab Emirates]. In just 50 years, you have gone from living in the desert with scarce resources to being one of the most prosperous nations on Earth.

We’re living in a truly unique time. I personally believe it’s one of the most extraordinary times to be alive in human history. Technology is enhancing our lives like never before; and also creating new challenges and expectations.

If you look at what’s happened last 120 years around the world, we’ve doubled the human lifespan from 35 to 72. Right now, I’m involved with stem cells and a series of companies that are producing breakthroughs that will, for sure, expand our lives in your lifetime at least 10 to 20 years. We’re on the cusp of a revolution that will transform the way we think about life, death, and longevity. Whereas before we accepted aging as an inevitable process, today, understanding the human genome, understanding how to repair the body, we will double our lifespan again.

We’re living in a place where we’ve tripled the per capita income of every nation on the planet. The cost of food has dropped 30-fold. Our XPRIZE to feed the next billion is about how to reduce the price 90% so that food can be available everywhere. We know what the technology is. We just need enough people competing to speed up the process of bringing that price down.

Now, we’re in a place where we’ve reduced the cost of transportation hundreds of times, millions of times less, for forms of communication. We’ve uplifted 1.1 billion people out of poverty in the last 29 years. By all measures, humanity has made incredible strides.

What you’re already doing as leaders, what we’ve done as our families and our ancestors the last 120 years is incredible, but what’s coming could be even more exciting. We have the unique opportunity to put our collective focus on harnessing life-changing and life-saving innovation technologies, and exchange intelligent solutions to solve universal challenges facing humanity now.

The question is, how do we make ourselves better leaders? What is that leadership?

Our lives are controlled by invisible forces – radiation, gravity, emotions, beliefs – and leaders MASTER invisible forces. Beliefs have the power to create or destroy. Regardless of where technology goes, these invisible forces that shape humanity will never go away, and it’s our job as leaders to unleash them for the greater good.

I believe leadership’s job, one, is to come up with that vision, something larger. What a great leader does is they see something better than everyone else, and then they raise the standard. They have so much certainty, they can pour that certainty into others.

Some of you may remember Walt Disney, or at least be familiar with who he is. My grandfather worked for him. He told me many stories about him. I can remember I got a chance to meet Roy Disney, Walt Disney’s partner, brother, I should say. When they opened the Epcot in Florida Disney World, which you may be familiar with, it was a big deal. They had worked on it for years. When Walt was alive, they started purchasing the land. He had this full vision.

The day of the opening, people from all over the world came to Epcot, came to Disney World. There are always people looking to tear something down. One of the reporters came up to Roy Disney, the brother of Walt Disney, and said, “Well, I know it seems like a beautiful day, but it must be bittersweet for you knowing Walt never got to see this.”

Roy Disney’s response was of classic leader response. He smiled to the man and said, “You’re mistaken. It’s clear why you are a merely a reporter of other people’s visions, and not a creator of vision, and not a leader.” He said, “Walt saw this. That’s why you’re seeing it now.”

I think that’s what’s true for all that we’ve seen here. He had this vision. He had this certainty. He had this capacity to build momentum, to move people.

A great leader has vision, and 100% certainty. They are a person of influence. A person who influences the thoughts, the feelings, the emotions, and the actions of people for a greater good, not just for themselves.

Because motive does matter. If your motive in your business is just to make money, you can make it because you’re focused on it. But I believe life moves to support whatever supports more of life. And I think a reason why companies like Airbnb or Salesforce grow the way they do is because they have a higher purpose; which is to serve something more than themselves.

You try to take care of your family; you’re going to get different levels insight than just yourself. You try and take care of your company, even bigger insight. Try and take care of your community, the world, humanity—if that’s really in your intention, that will affect the quality of your results.

What we need today are leaders who are truthful, who have vision and who are driven to get a great result. And for those leaders to come together and create a shared vision of shaping a better future for everyone, everywhere.

Tony Robbins

Tony Robbins is an entrepreneur, bestselling author, philanthropist and the nation’s #1 Life and Business Strategist. Author of five internationally bestselling books, including the recent New York Times #1 best-seller UNSHAKEABLE, Mr. Robbins has empowered more than 50 million people from 100 countries through his audio, video and life training programs. He created the #1 personal and professional development program of all time, and more than 4 million people have attended his live seminars.

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