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5 Important Lessons The Leaders Of Disney, Comcast And Yum! Brands Learned In School

5 Important Lessons The Leaders Of Disney, Comcast And Yum! Brands Learned In School

Business lore often celebrates the maverick who quit school because it just didn’t have much for them — Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are all among the pantheon of dropout success stories.

But they’re the exception, not the rule. Most leaders got through school, and most got something out of it.

Here’s five leaders on what they learned in school.


David Novak, co-founder, retired chairman and former CEO of Yum! Brands, Inc. (NYSE: YUM).

Novak’s high school “a-ha” moment didn’t lead to his career heading up a huge fast food empire — but it may have opened his eyes to the possibility.

“I had a very supportive teacher, Mr. Harp, who told me I was good enough to write for The New York Times someday and that I could make $100,000 a year,” Novak recalls in his memoir, “The Education of an Accidental CEO; Lessons Learned from the Trailer Park to the Corner Office.”

That led Novak to being editor of the school newspaper and learning a mainstay of editing a publication — and running just about any enterprise. That would be “breaking through the clutter,” Novak said.

While Novak did study journalism at the University of Missouri, he didn’t become a newspaper writer, but he used that ability to break through clutter in a long executive career that included running Yum!

See Also: The Best Leadership Books

Pride In Good Work

Eli Luberoff, founder and CEO of the math education company Desmos.

Luberoff’s most important lesson may have come from his fifth-grade teacher, Liliana Klass, Luberoff told the publication EdSurge.

“I remember a one-page paper that I turned in, a paragraph short of the target. She gently chastised me and, in a huff, I adjusted the margins, increased the font a bit and said, ‘here you go. A page,’” Luberoff recalled.

“I don’t remember her exact words, but it was something to the effect of: ‘When I push you for more, it’s for your sake, not mine. If you’re proud to turn this in, I’ll take it.’ I went back to work and have carried that conversation with me for 20 years.”

Toughness And Grit

Brian Roberts, CEO of Comcast Corporation (NASDAQ: CMCSA).

Roberts’ biggest lesson in school came not from a classroom teacher, but a coach. Roberts was All-American as a squash player at the University of Pennsylvania and went on to compete internationally. He credits his college squash coach at Penn, Al Molloy, with teaching him something that went beyond the court.

"If you're going to accomplish something in business, you have to be tough, physically and mentally,” Roberts told Sports Illustrated in 2000. “Al gave me that.”


Bradley Delamare, CEO of the Australian tech co-working company Tank Stream Labs.

“School taught me that no good work can be achieved alone,” Delamare said, according to Business Insider Australia, also citing sports as the source of his biggest lesson.

Growing up in Wymondham, England, Delamare played soccer, rugby, cricket and several other sports.

“Working effectively in teams is at the crux of everything I do,” he said. “Going to a school that placed so much emphasis on team sports helped me to appreciate that everyone is different and understand great things can be achieved when a group of people band together.”

See Also: What Motivates CEOs Like Tim Cook And Elon Musk To Wake Up Every Morning


Bob Iger, CEO of Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS).

For Iger, the lesson came in school, but it was a life lesson — taught accidentally by a teacher and hammered home by Iger’s father — not an academic one.

In an article in Vogue, Iger recalled that in fifth grade, his favorite teacher was discovered to have been in a same-sex relationship at a time when that wasn't generally accepted. It was 1960. Iger's father, who was on the school board, defended the teacher.

"And we had a discussion about the need to not only be tolerant but to understand that just because something was unusual, that didn’t make it bad," Iger recalled.

The episode made an enduring mark, and Iger has strived to run Disney as a place that, like the world, is made up of different kinds of people.


Related Articles (DIS + YUM)

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Posted-In: Bob Iger Bradley Delamare Brian Roberts David NovakEducation Movers & Shakers Top Stories General Best of Benzinga

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