Byron's Babbles

Rudolph & Elf Fascinating Leadership

Posted in Coaching, Leadership, Learning Organization by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on December 25, 2014

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/23e/12663085/files/2014/12/img_0622.jpg Every year, we see movies move their way into a regular rotation as part of the Christmas Season culture. Movies like…”It’s A Wonderful Life“, “Home Alone“, “Miracle On 34th Street“, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation“, “A Christmas Story“…and a whole bunch of others. These movies are touching, funny, and in some cases even action-packed…they’ve become holiday classics that we look forward to each year. This year, however, after having read Sally Hogshead’s incredible book, How The World Sees You: Discover Your Highest Value Through The Science of Fascination, and taking the Fascination Advantage Assessment, two of the Christmas classics really stuck out as having leadership lessons for us all.

Sally’s great work helps reveal who we are when we are at our best. She helps us to confidently and authentically communicate, based on our natural personality advantages. Most importantly, and the premise for this post, she teaches us that to be successful we don’t have to change who we are. We have to become more of who we are. When thinking about this two great Christmas movies come to mind as lessons of this. The first is Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer.

From Rudolph we learn we must leverage our strengths. We tend to spend most of our time and energy at work, and in life, trying to shore up our weaknesses. If we focus on building upon our strengths and minimizing the instances our weaknesses come into play, we tap into more joy, engagement, and success in our work. Rudolph had a strength no other reindeer possessed, a bright red nose, and found success because he discovered and leveraged that strength. In other words, he learned how to fascinate by becoming more of who he was. Ultimately, he’s offered the opportunity to save Christmas by leading the reindeer team through the terrible blizzard with his shiny nose, and he says yes! Think about it. He says yes to Santa, the man who said Rudolph would never make the sleigh team. When Santa utters those famous words, “Rudolph, with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?” he replies with humble conviction, “It would be an honor, sir.”

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/23e/12663085/files/2014/12/img_0621.jpg The other great Christmas movie to learn leadership lessons from is Elf. In 2003, Jon Favreau directed an instant classic, not to mention my son’s favorite Christmas movie, that was immediately embraced as a yearly Christmas must-see. The story, if you haven’t seen the movie, is of a human (Will Ferrell), named Buddy, who was raised by elves in the North Pole…and eventually left to seek out his real father living in New York. He finds his father and there is a happy ending, but the important leadership lesson is at the beginning of the movie just before Buddy realizes he is not an elf.

Buddy makes a profound statement at the beginning of the movie that many of us have made in our own ways. “Why don’t you just say it…I’m the worst toy maker in the world. Seems like everyone has the same talents, except for me.” – Buddy the Elf. If this is not a field day for someone like Sally Hogshead and her “How To Fascinate Team,” I don’t know what is! Like Buddy, sometimes we feel like the odd person out on our teams or in our organizations. Especially when our ideas and talents don’t necessarily match up with the organizational mainstream. You can begin to feel a bit like an outlier. Buddy the Elf had incredible talents, but because he was trying to be someone he was not, he was not successful.

As leaders we have to be able to not only notice this happening to ourselves, but also make sure we strategically put the people who we serve strengths to work. To find ways for each person in the organization to contribute positively to their team, as individuals. When we do this, we not only avoid creating an echo chamber of thoughts and ideas, or group think, we allow the strengths, talents and diversity of our people and teams to be utilized to their highest benefit. For this to happen, it requires that a leader not only notice, but differentiate and intentionally engage the variety of strengths and talents around them.

So what have we learned from Rudolph and Buddy the Elf? Rudolph transformed himself from a reindeer who lacked self-confidence to the leader of Santa’s sleigh team because he refused to let his assumed constraints hold him back, leveraged the unique strengths he possessed, prepared diligently, and took a risk when the opportunity presented itself. Buddy learned that we cannot be someone who we are not. We need to be more of who we are. Outstanding lessons for all of us this holiday season.

Wouldn’t it be great to have Sally Hogshead and her team way in on what they think the How To Fascinate Anthems of Rudolph and Buddy the Elf would be?

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

One Response

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  1. Bah Humbug! Leadership | Byron's Babbles said, on December 20, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    […] I wrote a post about the classic Christmas movies Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and Elf (click here to read the post). That post started an annual tradition, right? Well I guess so, because I’m […]


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