Leadership Lessons from Rudolph


Like many people, this time of year I love to hunker down in the evenings with a nice cup of hot cocoa and relive my childhood by watching holiday shows from my youth. Of course, as an adult I feel silly watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, or How the Grinch Stole Christmas…after all, these shows are for kids, right?

Maybe not.

If you are like me and are also enjoying these timeless classics, fear not. I have a way that we working professionals can watch these shows while gaining valuable lessons from our holiday heroes. My favorite, Rudolph, the beloved reindeer of Santa, has some leadership lessons for us all.

He Surrounds Himself  With Diverse Characters: This is where Rudolph really shines, because he can see the value in a diverse support network. Whether it’s the dentist-wannabe elf Hermey or Yukon Cornelius whose sled team is powered by a poodle, collie, saint bernard, and a dachshund, Rudolph looks to those with the qualities and skills who can help him reach his goal.

The Lesson: Do you surround yourself with people who are similar to you, or do you look to connect with individuals with different backgrounds and experiences? Working alongside individuals different from yourself can enhance teamwork, generate creative solutions, and make all members of an organization feel valued. Look for opportunities to expand your professional network and diversify your team.

He Has Tenacity. Although discouraged from being bullied by his reindeer friends and looking different from others, Rudolph finds that what was once viewed as a shortcoming is in fact, an asset. His nose – once an embarrassment – becomes  source of pride as he leads Santa’s sleigh through inclement weather to deliver Christmas gifts to those who wait. Through various trials and tribulations, Rudolph persists in his efforts.

The Lesson: We can get discouraged at work if we feel that we don’t have what it takes to get ahead, often focusing on what we perceive to be our shortcomings instead. But we all have gifts and talents that we can provide to our organizations. The key is to focus on our unique strengths and use them to reach our goals.

He Helps Those Who May Be Forgotten. The Island of Misfit Toys is teeming with warm-hearted toys waiting to do the job they were created to do. Rudolph empathises with these characters, recognizing their desire to be included. He works alongside Hermey and Cornelius to lift the spirits of the misfit toys, having them ready for Santa to deliver to the homes of eager children.

The Lesson: Are there colleagues at work who are being left behind? If so, what are you doing about it?  Having the feeling of inclusion at work and believing that you really matter is paramount to being engaged in an organization. Taking the time to reach out to someone who may feel they are not included can go a long way. Whether it’s taking time to get to know someone, asking about her current projects, or even inviting someone to lunch can make a colleague feel that they matter.

So, the next time you sit down and watch a holiday show, look at the characters and be mindful of what you can learn from them. You never know what nuggets of wisdom await in a wintery wonderland or Santa’s workshop!

Tricia S. Nolfi is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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