Disney's CEO Bob Iger is so busy even Oprah was stunned—here's how he stays organized

Walt Disney Company Chairman and CEO Robert Iger.
Mandel Ngan | AFP | Getty Images

It's no surprise Disney CEO Bob Iger has a lot of work on his hands.

The company's market capitalization has grown over $200 billion since Iger took over as CEO in 2005. Disney has over 200,000 employees and operates 12 amusement parks. It owns media networks like ESPN and ABC, studios, hotels, restaurants and more.

And as a sign of Disney's power, Iger claimed a spot in the top 100 of Time's most influential people in the world in 2019.

Even Oprah Winfrey, who moderated an event in New York City with Iger in 2019 to promote his new book, "The Ride of a Lifetime," couldn't wrap her head around how the Disney CEO compartmentalizes his day.

"I don't actually know how you do it all," Winfrey said.

Iger's answer? First, it all starts with assembling a good team.

"A company this size with this many businesses and this much complexity — you can't possibly do it all yourself. Not one person could do that," Iger said.

Once the team is assembled, Iger said he has his own system for his role at the top. To fit everything in, he organizes his tasks into four categories.

1. The must do's

As CEO, there are some responsibilities that are unavoidable, Iger said. These include going to board meetings and jumping on earnings calls.

But unlike fellow CEOs Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos, Iger doesn't avoid frequent meetings. He has a close team of 10 people who he tries to meet with face-to-face at least once a week, if travel schedules allow, he said.

"One thing I know helps them a lot is that I tell them what my priorities are and what I expect of them and of the company," Iger said. "That gives them the ability to go off and operate with a little bit more of a road map of what's expected."

2. Big decisions

It may not come as a surprise, but another one of Iger's main duties includes making big decisions.

"There are some things I have to get involved with because of their sheer size," Iger told Winfrey. "Mostly, the level of investment, the statement it might make or the responsibility associated with a big initiative."

Iger has spearheaded key investments for Disney during his tenure as CEO. That includes the company's acquisitions of Pixar, Lucasfilm, Marvel and, most recently, 21st Century Fox, with a combined total investment of over $86 billion.

He's also led some of the company's largest, and most historic, premiers, including Disney's first Marvel movie that features a predominantly black cast, "Black Panther."

"On the business side, there is a case to be made for your product reflecting the world you're trying to do business in," Iger told Vogue in 2018. "But of course there's also an ethical side. I felt that Marvel needed to turn its afterburners on in terms of developing movies based on more diverse characters, and that led directly to 'Black Panther' and 'Captain Marvel.'"

3. Make a difference

The CEO's near 45-year experience at the company in both business and creative positions has also helped him pinpoint where he can make a difference, he said.

Iger landed his first job with ABC when he was 23 years old, although he said that he wasn't much more than "the assistant to the production assistant." He's gone on to hold more than 20 different positions at the company before finally becoming CEO of The Walt Disney Corporation, which acquired ABC in 1995.

That experience has encompassed some of Disney's largest projects. When it comes to big films like "Star Wars," for instance, he will see final cuts of the movie, assist with script reading and relay his input along the way.

"If I really think that by putting my touch on something I can either help make it better or exhort people who are making it to be better, I do that," Iger said.

4. Have fun

While Iger's 13-year tenure as CEO continues after delaying his retirement plans four separate times — although he has said he has plans to step down in 2021 — he's still learning on the job. He told Winfrey the fourth category is one he's only learned to do as he's gotten older, which is asking himself what he enjoys doing most.

"I have the ability to decide, occasionally, what's going to be fun for me," Iger told Winfrey.

Don't miss: When Bob Iger was a 23-year-old assistant, he got a $100 tip from Frank Sinatra

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