By Gino Blefari
This week I’m in Northern California, working right up until the holidays to ensure a merry and bright new year for all of our brands. The holidays are such a special time with friends and family, and as far as leadership goes, St. Nick happens to be an iconic leader. Why is he such a shining example of leadership? Here are 12 reasons:
- Motivation. St. Nick leads and does not follow. With a motivated mindset, he inspires his team – his elves and reindeer – to be more productive, more efficient and even more effective than they were the year before.
- Time management. Could you imagine what would happen if presents arrived a day late? The holidays would cease to exist! With time management at the forefront of his business, St. Nick ensures his is properly managed, so he’s able to map out his route, shimmy down chimneys, (maybe snack on a few cookies) and drop off the gifts all within the span of one evening.
- Optimism. There’s no one jollier than St. Nick during the holidays, and his jolly demeanor allows his elves and reindeer to follow him and the instructions he gives. Optimism emerges from faith in yourself and faith in those who work for you. It’s not about saying everything is good when it’s not or conveying blind faith that things will work out; it’s about believing in your abilities and in the abilities of others. Plus, while negativity is fine for The Grinch, St. Nick is a bastion of holiday cheer. We could all learn a lesson from his peppermint-sweet positivity and optimism.
- Four Disciplines of Execution. Nick follows the four disciplines of execution. First, he focuses on his Wildly Important Goals to deliver presents and spread holiday cheer. Second, he acts on his lead measures: loading his sleigh, mapping out his gift-giving route and sliding down chimneys to drop off gifts. Third, he keeps a compelling scoreboard, checking his list twice and keeping score of who’s naughty and who’s nice. Finally, he creates a cadence of accountability by meeting with his elves once per week all year long. During these meetings, his elves announce how many toys they’ve assembled that week and how many they’ll assemble in the week ahead. (“This week I made twelve nutcrackers and three dolls and next week I’ll make fifteen nutcrackers and seven dolls …”)
- Humility. The success St. Nick enjoys is in part from his own efforts, but his holiday accomplishments do not stem from his achievements alone. It’s the efforts of the elves, the efforts of the reindeer and the support and example set by Mrs. St. Nick that allows him to succeed.
- Culture. St. Nick’s workshop at the North Pole is brimming with collaboration and positive culture. Elves want to be at work each day, reindeer want to fly, and everyone cooperates to make the holidays come to merry life.
- Accountability. St. Nick is accountable to all the children worldwide. They’re quite literally counting down the days, (and counting on him) to appear with presents.
- Listening. If St. Nick didn’t listen, he might never hear the holiday wishes he must grant. Good leaders speak, great leaders know when to speak and when to listen, just like St. Nick.
- Teamwork. Flying a sleigh full of reindeer is tough work! For the reindeer to make the sleigh fly, tremendous teamwork is required. It’s similar to the term “swing,” famously defined in “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown. In fact, here’s the quote about swing, swapping out oars for reindeer and boat for sleigh: “Each minute action – each subtle turning of wrists – must be mirrored exactly by each [reindeer], from one end of the [sleigh] to the other. Only then will the [sleigh] continue to run, unchecked, fluidly and gracefully between pulls of the [reindeer]. Only then will it feel as if the [sleigh] is a part of each of them, moving as if on its own. Only then does pain entirely give way to exultation. [Sleigh-riding] then becomes a kind of perfect language. Poetry, that’s what a good swing feels like.” Another point to note is that St. Nick leads from his position at the back of the sleigh. Rudolph is in front and St. Nick is in the back to make sure no reindeer or presents get left behind.
- Skills. Of course, customer service is at the heart of what St. Nick does but he also needs the skills to complete the job. (Customer service is the holiday frosting but never the whole cake.) St. Nick and his team are well-versed in sleigh-riding, navigation, present-making, gift-wrapping … the list goes on.
- Preparation. Successful leaders like St. Nick understand success is when opportunity meets preparation. The opportunity is already there for him and his team – they’ve been given this incredible chance to gift the world with cheer – but the preparation is St. Nick’s responsibility alone. He is the one who makes sure he has the right presents for the right homes, the proper equipment for his sleigh and the necessary tools in his workshop to get the toy-making jobs done.
- Fun. Once the holiday eve turns to morning, what’s left are the fond memories and fun St. Nick and his team had while completing yet another successful holiday season. A workshop filled with fun decreases stress for team members and turnover rates at the North Pole, while increasing productivity and overall positivity.
So, what’s the message?
The lessons of St. Nick are as numerous as the gifts he gives. We can all relate to certain aspects of his leadership style, just as we can all relate to different aspects of the holiday season. For some, the holidays might be about spreading goodwill, observing the spirit of the season or spending time with family and friends. For others, it might be about reflecting on the year gone by and resolving to make the new one even better. No matter what the holiday means to you, I hope yours is filled with health, prosperity and joy.