Running head: MEDIA LEADERSHIP STYLE ANALYSIS OF MICHAEL EISNER Media Leadership Style Analysis of Michael Eisner Whitney M. Wright Regent University Media Leadership Style Analysis of Michael Eisner Media Leadership Example Michael Eisner was recruited by Walt Disney Company from Paramount Pictures in 1984 to help Disney out of its financial slump in the 80’s. Eisner helped revamp Disney’s theme parks as well as rejuvenating their movie studio.
In the process, Eisner helped “make Disney into a television powerhouse, climaxing those efforts with the takeover of Capital Cities-ABC…yet when Michael Eisner assumed leadership of the company, Disney was in trouble. It was Eisner and his staff who turned the ailing theme park company into a media powerhouse” (Gomery, 1995). Eisner moved over to Disney from Paramount taking along with him Jeffery Katzenberg to make motion pictures under two new brand names: Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures.
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Eisner and Katzenberg worked well together until 1994 when they got into a dispute over a promised promotion as well as litigation involving a breach of contract lawsuit where Disney owed Katzenberg around $250 million. “The two sides reached a partial settlement in November 1997 in which Disney conceded that Mr. Katzenberg was owed something, and Disney paid Mr. Katzenberg $117 million” (Fabrikant, 1999). Michael Eisner has been widely criticized in press releases of his obsessive micromanagement and autocratic leadership style.
In one article, Michael Eisner is said to have “been one of the most autocratic, and the best-paid, chief executives in America, a man who has had little patience for anyone questioning his leadership of Walt Disney” (Economist, 2004). It has been noted that “Michael Eisner’s Disney has been a case study in poor corporate governance. Over the years, the board was disproportionately stocked with insiders, professionals who had dealings with the company, people whose children’s or relatives worked at the company, and others who were ill-equipped to exercise oversight over Eisner” (Gross, 2004).
In Roy Disney’s resignation letter in November 2003, he listed Michael Eisner’s flaws of leadership. One being Eisner’s “consistent micro-management of everyone around you with the resulting loss of morale throughout the company” as well as “the perception by all our stakeholders ??? consumers, investors, employees, distributors, and suppliers ??? that the company is rapacious, soul-less, and always looking for the ‘quick buck’ rather than long-term value which is leading to a loss of public trust” (Disney, 2003).
Roy Disney also criticized Eisner’s cutbacks on Disney’s creative talent. Disney also felt that Eisner “failed to establish and build constructive relationships with creative partners, especially Pixar, Miramax, and the cable companies distributing our products” (Disney, 2003) as well as Eisner’s “consistent refusal to establish a clear succession plan” (Disney, 2003). Eisner’s micro-management style is reflected by a 2003 Time Magazine article stating that Disney chief Michael Eisner never “misses the small points.
Whether it’s the fixtures in his company hotels, the dialogue in a movie script or little snubs that add up to a feud, not much escapes him” (Fonda, 2003). A The New York Times article states that “according to one former senior Disney executive, program decisions, script decisions ??? even decisions on which writers might be signed deals ??? have often had to go through as many as six executives, headed by Mr. Eisner and Mr. Iger. ‘For six people to like the show is never going to happen,’ the former Disney executives said. Michael and Bob make sure their operating executives have no real power'” (Carter, 2004). Walt Disney Resource. net stated five reasons why Eisner should be ousted: 1. ) Eisner has “closed all Feature Animation departments, meaning that Disney will no longer produce any hand-drawn animated films under his watch. They will only produce CG animated films” (The Walt Disney Resource). 2. ) Eisner’s “micro-management style has seriously hurt the creative process at the Disney Studios.
Eisner insists on having control over the creative process, and that he has to authorize all story development. This creates an atmosphere where writers, composers, animators, and actors do not perform their best, because they have no say in story development. This results in films that under perform at the box office” (The Walt Disney Resource). 3. ) Eisner “has failed to negotiate fair contracts with some of Disney’s greatest assets…including Disney’s top writers, composers, animators, actors, and partners.
Jeffrey Katzenberg, Hilary Duff, and Pixar Animation are just a few of the recognizable names that have left the Disney Family because Michael was unwilling to pay them what they are worth. Miramax has threatened to leave the company as well” (The Walt Disney Resource). 4. ) Eisner’s “desire to cut costs has resulted in many poor quality films and merchandise” (The Walt Disney Resource), and 5. ) Eisner “has mismanaged the theme parks…and has tried to save money by cutting down on maintenance costs” (The Walt Disney Resource) where the upkeep is eroding.
Application and Analysis of Leadership Styles Upon reviewing Eisner’s domineering, harsh, and autocratic management style seems to echo a combination of Pseudo-Transformational, Transactional, and Path-Goal leadership styles. Eisner referred to his upper management key people in negative, derogatory, and abusive terms such as: “Jeffrey Katzenberg as a ‘midget’, Michael Ovitz as a ‘psychopath’, Roy Disney was kicked off the board, and Harvey Weinstein was forced out of Miramax” (Epstein, 2005).
These abusive and condescending remarks directed towards key subordinates is an example of how a pseudo???transformational leader “tends to focus on the worst in people ??? on demonic plots, conspiracies, unreal dangers, excuses, and insecurities” (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999, p. 5). This type of negative empowerment creates a dysfunctional environment where they “may mislead, deceive, and prevaricate…be subtle and speak with a forked tongue. For instance, offering followers empowerment, yet continuing to treat them as dependent children.
They talk about empowerment but actually continue to seek control…they publicly give the impression that they are concerned about the good that can be achieved for the group, organization, or society for which they feel responsible; but in private they are primarily concerned about the good they can achieve for themselves…They are spiritual leaders who are false prophets” (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999, p. 5-6). Pseudo???transformational leadership is a term that “refers to leaders who are self consumed, exploitive, and power oriented, with warped moral values” (Northouse, 2007, p. 77). It is “considered personalized leadership, which focuses on the leader’s own interests rather than the interests of others” (Northouse, 2007, p. 177). Michael Eisner’s style of leadership can also be attributed as a transactional leadership where “followers are motivated by the leaders’ promises, praise, and rewards, or they are corrected by negative feedback, reproof, threats, or disciplinary actions. The leaders react to whether the followers carry out what the leaders and followers have ‘transacted’ to do” (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999, p. 3).
Transactional leaders “do not individualize the needs of subordinates or focus on their own personal development” (Northouse, 2007, p. 185). Rather, they “exchange things of value with subordinates to advance their own and their subordinates’ agendas. Transactional leaders are influential because it is in the best interest of subordinates to do what the leader wants” (Northouse, 2007, p. 185). In spite of Eisner’s overt arrogance, insensitivity, and ineffective leadership style, he did turn a “faltering animation-and-amusement-park company into one of the world’s most successful prayers of home entertainment” (Epstein, 2005).
Even in the midst of much negative press, Eisner attaining his goals also reflects the Path-Goal Theory where “leaders motivate subordinates to accomplish designated goals” (Northouse, 2007, p. 127). The independent variable of “directive path-goal clarifying leader behavior directed toward providing psychological structure for subordinates: letting subordinates know what they are expected to do” (House, 1996).
The more specific path-goal approach that would fit this situation would be directive leadership where a “leader who gives subordinates instructions about their task, including what is expected of them, how it is to be done, and the timeline for when it should be a completed” (Northouse, 2007, p. 129-130). Conclusion Eisner was successful in attaining financially positive goals for the Walt Disney Company, but he did it at the expense of losing quality employees, business relationships, as well as tarnishing the company’s image and reputation.
By using a dictatorial, authoritarian, micromanagement style, Michael Eisner was somewhat successful in increasing Disney’s bottom line but it also damaged key relationships and business associations. As a pseudo???transformational leader, Michael Eisner “welcomed and expected blind obedience” (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999, p. 6). He maintained a personal distance between himself and his followers. He also “encouraged fantasy and magic in his vision of an attractive future” (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999, p. ), but he also fostered “favoritism and competition among followers in the guise of being helpful” (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999, p. 7). Pseudo-transformational leaders tend to use power “primarily for self-aggrandizement and are actually contemptuous privately of those who are supposed to be serving as leaders…primarily concerned about their power and gaining more of it” (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999, p. 7). These leaders can be “deceptive, domineering, and egotistical demagogues while their public image may be that of saviors” (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999, p. 7).
They are “predisposed towards self-serving biases” (Bass & Steidlmeier, 1999, p. 7). Transactional leadership was applied by expecting subordinates to carry out his dictatorial orders with no questions asked. If subordinates dared to question Eisner’s authority, they were immediately terminated. He ruled by fear, manipulation, and coercion. Michael Eisner attained his objectives by using the Path-Goal approach, but he failed by achieving them in a negative fashion. Eisner basically walked over people to acquire his end results. In the long run, that type of legacy is never of good repute.
When a company’s image is associated with unethical leadership, its bottom line eventually suffers as well. So it’s a good thing that Roy Disney was tenacious in ousting a demon like Michael Eisner from his beloved uncle’s company. Walt Disney is probably smiling from his grave at this point. References Bass, Bernard M. , & Steidlmeier, Paul (1999). Ethics, Character, and Authentic Transformational Leadership Behavior. Leadership Quarterly, 10(2). Carter, Bill (2004, March 8). ABC Under Disney: Kingdom, Yes. Magic, No. ; Micromanagement Leads to Missed Opportunities. The New York Times.
Retrieved from http://query. nytimes. com/gst/fullpage. html? res=9407E6D61F3FF93BA35750C0A9629C8 Disney, Roy. (2003, November 23). Roy Edward Disney’s Resignation Letter. Retrieved March 12, 2008, from MiceAge. com Web site: http://craphound. com/roytoeisner. txt Economist (2004). A Full-Time Leader. Economist, 370(8365). Epstein, Edward Jay (2005). How Did Michael Eisner Make Disney Profitable? The Hollywood Economist, , . Retrieved from Washingtonpost Newsweek Interactive Co. LLC Web site: http://www. slate. com/id/2116794/ Fabrikant, Geraldine (1999, May 24). Market Place: A Nasty Fight with a Former Top Aide