Creating Magic : 10 Common Sense Leadership Strategies from a Life at Disney
by Lee Cockerell and Lee Cockerell

Overview -

“It’s not the magic that makes it work; it’s the way we work that makes it magic.”

The secret for creating “magic” in our careers, our organizations, and our lives is simple: outstanding leadership—the kind that inspires employees, delights customers, and achieves extraordinary business results.  Read more...


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More About Creating Magic by Lee Cockerell; Lee Cockerell

“It’s not the magic that makes it work; it’s the way we work that makes it magic.”

The secret for creating “magic” in our careers, our organizations, and our lives is simple: outstanding leadership—the kind that inspires employees, delights customers, and achieves extraordinary business results.

No one knows more about this kind of leadership than Lee Cockerell, the man who ran Walt Disney World® Resort operations for over a decade. And in Creating Magic, he shares the leadership principles that not only guided his own journey from a poor farm boy in Oklahoma to the head of operations for a multibillion dollar enterprise, but that also soon came to form the cultural bedrock of the world’s number one vacation destination. But as Lee demonstrates, great leadership isn’t about mastering impossibly complex management theories. We can all become outstanding leaders by following the ten practical, common sense strategies outlined in this remarkable book. As straightforward as they are profound, these leadership lessons include:
Everyone is important.
Make your people your brand.
Burn the free fuel: appreciation, recognition, and encouragement.
Give people a purpose, not just a job.

Combining surprising business wisdom with insightful and entertaining stories from Lee’s four decades on the front lines of some of the world’s best-run companies, Creating Magic shows all of us – from small business owners to managers at every level – how to become better leaders by infusing quality, character, courage, enthusiasm, and integrity into our workplace and into our lives.

  • Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
  • Date: Oct 2008

From the book


It's not the magic that makes it work; it's the way we work that makes it magic." Everyone who works at Walt Disney World Resort learns that principle, and the result has been magic for the Guests and for the bottom line. Now you can create magic too--for your organization, your family, and your community--by following the leadership strategies in this book.

During my sixteen years as a senior Disney executive, I repeated that phrase about making magic hundreds of times. But its full magnitude hit me with hurricane force--literally--in the summer of 2004. That's when Disney World was hammered by three major hurricanes in a little more than a month. Normally, tropical storms do not cause heavy damage in Orlando, as it is about fifty miles from both coasts. In fact, the city had not suffered a direct hit in forty-four years. Then came 2004 and the one-two punch of Charley and Frances.

In August, Hurricane Charley swept through Orlando on Friday the thirteenth with gusts of up to 105 miles per hour, ripping down trees and power lines and tearing the roofs off buildings. The area had not yet fully recovered when Frances came roaring in two weeks later--on Labor Day weekend, no less, when Disney World was host to seventy-five thousand guests. We were forced to close the theme parks on both occasions, something we had done only twice before, once on 9/11 and once in 1999 for Hurricane Floyd, which fortunately veered away at the last minute. But this time we had to batten down the hatches, and when your hatches are spread over forty-seven square miles, it's a monumental task.

What I remember most about the ordeal is not the terrifying winds or the sleepless nights in the emergency operation center (EOC), where my team and I had gathered to make plans to ensure the safety of our Guests and fellow Cast Members. Instead, I remember the dedication of our staff, the precision of our communications, and the smooth way everyone did what he or she was supposed to do even though it'd never been done before. I remember teams of dedicated people tying down chandeliers, stacking tables and chairs and roping them together, and strapping vending carts to the ground. I remember Mickey and Minnie and Cinderella and Goofy cheering up frightened children in the hotel lobbies. Mostly, I remember the five-thousand-plus Cast Members who spent the stormy nights on the property so they could help at any hour and in any way they could, and the countless others who showed up with their sleeves rolled up the minute it was safe to leave their homes.

I also remember this: When Charley finally subsided, around midnight, exhausted Cast Members worked through the night, clearing debris, getting supplies to where they were needed, and hauling away thousands of damaged trees. It was a monumental effort, with everyone acting as one to get the parks ready for our Guests, some of whom had been stuck in their rooms for eighteen hours. The next morning, we opened on time. And the families who poured in were astonished to find the sunlit theme parks looking spotless and the operations running as if nothing had happened. What they could not see was the massive teamwork behind the scenes that made it all possible or the stress and fatigue behind the smiling faces that greeted them. While many other attractions and businesses in central Florida remained closed and local municipalities were struggling to restore power and clear the roads, Disney was making magic.

As the executive vice president in charge of operations at Disney World, I could not have been more proud. All the work that my colleagues and I had done to instill strong leadership values...


"In Creating Magic, Lee Cockerell delivers his ideas about leadership in a common sense way that can really reach people and help them improve their effectiveness at work, at home, and in their communities. His valuable leadership strategies and remarkable Disney stories will ring true for everyone who reads this book." - Ken Blanchard, coauthor of The One Minute Manager® and The One Minute Entrepreneur
"Lee's common sense principles and down to earth storytelling are refreshing. His book will help leaders and managers at all levels become better in all parts of their lives." - Lee Huebner, Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, Georgetown University

"Disney is one of the world's prime exemplars of service, having pioneered and implemented much of what is today seen as best practice in service management. Lee Cockerell has played a major role in this . . . For those wishing to learn how Disney has achieved its reputation for service, this will be a book to read." - Chris Voss, Professor of Operations and Technology Management, London Business School

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