Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from St. Nick

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me starting Monday with my typical WIG calls. On Tuesday, I had an early morning Berkshire Hathaway Energy weekly executive team meeting followed by succession planning calls, which continued into Wednesday. On Wednesday, I participated in HomeServices of America’s December corporate team gathering and today, I sit down to write this post to you.

There’s no such thing as a gingerbread cookie-cutter template for the perfect leader. All leaders are different and have their unique strengths. However, leaders do share several traits: They inspire, they motivate, they lead by example, and they spread joy and cheer to every member of their team.

Read more: Thoughts on Leadership: Leadership Lessons from St. Nick

And what better leader to find inspiration from than Old St. Nick? He balances quite a lot on his sleigh and this year had to manage the North Pole through a shifting marketplace, but everything he does, he does with jolly good cheer.

St. Nick abides by the four disciplines of execution. First, he focuses on his Wildly Important Goals: bringing cheer to everyone around the world and putting smiles on our faces during the holiday season. Second, he acts on his lead measures. He loads his sleigh, maps out his gift-giving route and slides down chimneys to deliver gifts. Third, he keeps a compelling scoreboard, checking his list twice and keeping score of who’s been naughty and who’s been 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 commit to assemble in the week ahead. (“This week I made 10 LEGO sets, five bicycles and two yo-yos, and next week I’ll make 12 LEGO sets, seven bicycles and three yo-yos …”)

He’s jolly. Leadership is about maintaining a positive mindset, and you can’t get much more positive than the always-smiling St. Nick. Maybe part of his jolly attitude comes from always giving back to others. Humans (even St. Nick!) are hard-wired to have positive responses to giving back. After we complete a kind act, our brain’s pleasure sensors are activated and our bodies release feel-good endorphins, which has been called a “helper’s high.” Over time, giving back can even reduce overall stress levels, which is good news for St. Nick because he’s dealing with a lot of moving (toy) parts each holiday season.

He’s a master at time management. Deliver presents to children across the world? Check. Do it all before the sun rises and the hot cocoa is on the stove? Check. If St. Nick’s time isn’t managed properly, he can’t succeed at his job, shimmying down chimneys and delivering presents across the world in the span of a single night.

He knows how to achieve team chemistry. St. Nick manages a huge staff of elves and reindeer! Each one has an assigned task, and St. Nick knows that the holiday season can’t happen unless there’s perfect holiday chemistry within the team. Here’s that famous passage from The Boys and the Boat, modified with holiday cheer:

“There is a thing that sometimes happens in [a sleigh] that is hard to achieve and hard to define. Many [sleigh riders], even winning [sleigh riders], never really find it. Others find it but can’t sustain it. It’s called ‘swing.’ It only happens when all [reindeer] are [flying] in such perfect unison that not a single action by any one is out of sync with those of all the others. It’s not just that the [reindeer] [dip and soar] through the [night sky] at precisely the same instant. [Thirty-two reindeer legs] must begin to pull, [sixteen antlers] must [be perfectly aligned], eight [reindeer] bodies must begin to slide forward and backward, eight [reindeer] backs must bend and straighten all at once. Each minute action – each subtle turning of [the sleigh] – 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 [homes as St. Nick delivers his presents]. 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 [sleigh’s] swing feels like.”

So, what’s the message? Now that we’re all inspired by St. Nick, let’s end this message with “Simple Abundance“ readings shared by Tammy Maddente, president and general sales manager of First Weber, to her team earlier this week:

  • On the first day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of my Undivided Attention
  • On the second day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Enthusiasm
  • On the third day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Creative Energy
  • On the fourth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Simple Seasonal Pleasures
  • On the fifth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Tenderness
  • On the sixth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Good Cheer
  • On the seventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Beauty
  • On the eighth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Communication
  • On the ninth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Surprise
  • On the tenth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Wonder
  • On the eleventh day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Peaceful Surroundings
  • On the twelfth day of Christmas, I gave to my true loves: The gift of Joy

Happy Holidays!

Gino

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