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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. 177). It is “considered personalized leadership, which focuses on the
leader’s own interests rather than the interests of others” (Northouse, 2007, p.
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.
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).
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. 7), 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.
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