This edition of Disney Archaeology begins with a young man busily setting up chairs. The room is empty, with the exception of this one man making sure the chairs are set up in just the right way.
In another moment or two as the chairs scrape across the floor as they are set up, adjusted, then repositioned, a second young man enters the room. He has arrived for an event that is supposed to take place but being responsible he had arrived early.
The year is 1940, the young man who has just entered the room being set up is a radio broadcaster by the name of Art Linkletter. If you are a Disney fan, you know that Art and Walt were great friends and Art would host the live televised opening of Disneyland. But that was the future, this was earlier than that, Art did not know Walt Disney and had no idea that a place called Disneyland would ever be dreamed of, much less built, and never could he have imagined the largest live televised event in history happening with him as the host.
Today, in 1940, Art Linkletter had arrived for a press conference. As a radio broadcaster he was there to hear and ask questions of the mastermind behind a new film about to be released called Fantasia. Being early, Art decided he could help set up chairs if he needed to and went to wear the young man was hard at work.
Grabbing a chair, Art asked – “When is Walt Disney supposed to arrive?”
Sliding and fidgeting another chair into place, the young chair setter broke into a grin. He looked up from his work, with a hand still resting on the back of the chair and answered.
“I’m Walt Disney.”
The stunned Linkletter said, “You are? Why are you here arranging chairs?”
Walt answered. “Well, I like to have things just-so.”
And that was the first meeting between Art Linkletter and his soon to be friend, Walt Disney. Art would later recall – “That was quite an introduction, because it gave me a glimpse of the kind of person Walt was. He wasn’t a Hollywood big shot, impressed with his own importance. He was just a friendly, humble guy.
Good leader, no let me correct that, great leaders are willing to set up chairs, sweep the floor, the first to arrive, be the last to leave, make coffee, make small talk, do what needs to be done to make whatever it is they are working on successful. You cannot be a great leader unless you can be a great servant.
It is only when you learn what it means to serve then you are prepared to be a great leader. This easy to miss, first time encounter between the future friends, Art and Walt, made a lasting impression on Linkletter.
Someone once said that a leader without a heart willing to serve is really just a boss.
Anyone can be a boss if they have the authority and position, but it takes heart to be a real leader.
In life, we all have the chance to make choices. Are we willing to serve and make the lives of others better – or – are we so focused on what we want and need that we expect others to do for us? The difference in the way we think is huge. If we are willing to serve we are preparing to lead…if we desire others to serve us…then we are just feeling entitled.
If you are going to make a dent in the world – you will have to learn to have the heart of a servant so you can be a leader. Once you are – your life will be a blessing to those you meet and it will change the world around you forever.