Saluting Sheriff Jack Lindquist

The Frontier trading Post includes the name of "Texas" John Slaughter, once sheriff of Cochise County in Arizona. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The Frontier trading Post includes the name of “Texas” John Slaughter, once sheriff of Cochise County in Arizona. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The passing of Jack Lindquist this week brings to my mind one of my favorite stories about this man who is heralded for his involvement in Disneyland–even being its first president. But this tale comes from the opening days of Walt Disney World, where all hands were needed–including Jack’s.

In olden days, frontier towns like the kind we imagine in Frontierland were kept at peace by a sheriff who oversaw law and order. Often the sheriff was called upon to carry out tough duties others feared accomplishing. In that role, they often carried out jobs beyond policing. Those duties included keeping watch over the jail, removing straying animals, or even playing judge and jury.

In his book, Spinning Disney’s World, Charlie Ridgway talks about how Walt Disney would call on individuals to handle specific assignments that were beyond the call of duty. Walt called it “Naming the Sheriff.” Such individuals were tapped to get something done even when it was clearly not part of their expertise.

After Walt, the title stayed on. For example, take a look at the red pavement found along the streets. Shortly before the opening of Walt Disney World in 1971, then Marketing Director Jack Lindquist was asked to fly to Boston. Workers were ready to pour concrete for the red-colored pavings, but there was no red coloring powder. It was Friday. And it needed to be available by Monday morning.

No problem. Jack flew to Boston, chartered a plane and supervised loading of the coloring powder despite having to get it done on the weekend and flew back with it. The concrete was poured on time.

The streets of Frontierland all paved in red. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
The streets of Frontierland all paved in red. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

It was that kind of “can do, help pitch in” attitude that made Walt Disney World a reality. Jack Lindquist knew that, and he extended a hand whenever called upon. It’s that kind of attitude that would ultimately lead him to becoming Disneyland’s first president.

This honorary window at Disneyland celebrates Jack's contribution to the park. Note that he was a "Jack of all trades, Master of fun." Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
This honorary window at Disneyland celebrates Jack’s contribution to the park. Note that he was a “Jack of all trades, Master of fun.” Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

Ask yourself:

  • What does “Naming the Sheriff” look like in your own organization?
  • How do we cultivate a culture of helping to pitch in whenever help is needed?
  • How do we reward those who go the extra mile beyond their regular assignments?

Know that Disney at Work offers the most comprehensive ideas in best-in-business practices found in the Walt Disney Company. Jeff has studied Disney for an entire lifetime, and brings not only unique stories to life, but helps you apply them to your own organization. A former leader at the Disney Institute with over 20 years working with world-class companies, Jeff is available for keynotes, seminars, and to consult with your business in taking it to the next level. Contact him today at 407-973-3219.

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