Last month, I was in Anaheim attending the 2016 Academy of Management’s Annual Conference. As you might recall, I wrote some posts about my experiences there. (Please see “Live” from the AOM’s 2016 Annual Meeting, and subsequent posts.)

One thing I didn’t mention, however, is that Disneyland is located right across the street from the Anaheim Convention Center. It was hard to miss (especially given all the kids running around wearing Mickey Mouse ears).

So for this installment of my Paradox of the Week* series of posts, I thought a couple of contradictions/paradoxical assertions from Michael Eisner, the former CEO of Disney, might be appropriate:

 

  • In Working Together (2010, HarperCollins), Eisner discusses effective partnerships, and why they succeed. Drawing on his own “famously successful” collaboration with the late Disney COO and president, Frank Wells, Eisner explains: “…my ten years with [Wells] at Disney were the most successful of my career” (p. xii). Understandably then, he offers the following wish for his successor, and current Disney CEO, Bob Iger: “The workload at Disney is enormous—I hope he [Iger] finds a partner as good as the one I had” (p. 30).

However, Eisner also appears willing to admit that Iger might be doing just fine on his own…which would seem to negate the entire premise of his text. “Today at Disney,” Eisner writes, “like Frank and me, he [Iger] is carrying on Walt’s legacy with style and grace” (same page).

So are great partnerships necessary for success, or just nice to have..?

  • Some of Eisner’s other examples of great partnerships are suspect as well. For instance, Eisner lauds the “partnership” of Warren Buffet, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and BH’s Vice Chairman Charlie Munger. And yet Buffet describes that relationship as follows: “He [Munger] has absolutely no problem being number two with me. And if we disagree, we probably won’t do a deal, but if I decide to do it, that’s fine” (p. 47).

A partnership of “unequals” then..?

Eisner also characterizes the “partnership” of celebrity chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken (of the Food Network’s Too Hot Tamales) as follows: “She [Feniger] is alone, but she is still a partner. Apparently it is possible to be both” (p. 219).

???

  • And if that’s not enough to convince you that Mr. Eisner is willing to concede his text’s main thesis—namely, that partnerships are important—consider this admission, which he makes near the end of his text:

“Nonetheless, after some 279 pages spent advocating for partnerships, I’m still very much a believer in the need for leadership by one person and ultimate accountability.”

 

 

See you next week.

 


*An instance in which a business or management “expert” contradicts him- or herself, or otherwise offers paradoxical advice – usually without any apparent awareness of having done so. For more examples of this all-too-frequent phenomena, click here. And for an explanation as to why this happens soooo often, please see Why you can throw out that management advice book (Parts 1, 2, & 3).