What I Learned From Standing In Line At Disneyland.

The holidays…family, friends, food, and Disneyland?  Yes, it’s true.  It wouldn’t feel like Christmas at our house if we did not make at least one excursion to Disneyland during the holidays.  While Disneyland is beautifully decorated and festive this time of year…it is also bustling with the joys of the multitudes and expansive lines.  So much so, they happily provide you with an updated and approximate “wait time” upon arrival to each ride.  It was during one of those 90 minute “wait time” opportunities that it became apparent, the Disneyland experience paralleled the leadership experience.  How so…

First, you just never know what encounters the day is going to bring…what rides are or will be closed, will it be lot’s of people and long lines or light crowds and short lines.  My wife often chides me for trying to gauge the temperature of the park and what I am walking into from the parking attendants.  Leadership is much the same, you never know what each day will bring and you have to be prepared and on top of your game for whatever the day throws at you.

Second, as you hit the gates you know that it is imperative to get your hands on that vital park map, determine how much time you have, what rides are a must, and collaboratively plan your strategy to get it all in.  Leadership is much the same, you have to start with a vision, bring the team on board to the vision, set goals in alignment with the vision, and celebrate the achievement of each goal as you move closer to achieving the vision.

Third, you have to prepare for the inevitable glitches that can cause the famed “Disney attack” plan to go awry, which may and most likely include long lines, rides closing down, young ones needing the bathroom at the most unexpected times.  It is all part of the Disney experience.  Leadership is much the same, you have to be patient and persistent if you are going to achieve the vision.  Most strategies do not go as planned and you have to be agile, flexible and remain focused on the vision, no matter what is thrown in your path.  It truly takes commitment.

Remember, there is no “fast pass” in leadership.  Leadership, just like standing in line at Disneyland, requires patience and persistence, especially when you know up front…the time, the effort and energy required to accomplish the vision.  Many people consider the “wait time” for a ride and walk away, not willing to commit to the time, effort and energy required for the payoff at the end of the line.  Others start the line and abandon their progress before they reach the end, allowing both frustration and impatience to impede their progress towards the vision.

Star Tours, Space Mountain, Thunder Mountain are the reasons we are willing to stand in line…they are the payoff for the patience. In much the same manner, celebrate small victories and you will keep those you lead committed to the vision.

Question: What other leadership lessons can we learn from standing in line at Disneyland?