What Christmas Movies have taught me about Leadership…#2

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” Somehow that Andy Williams song always welcomes in the holiday season for me, followed closely by the movie “Elf.”
In fact, let me just say right now that if you have not seen the movie ELF, it’s a Christmas must!

See, Buddy the Elf is a human that was raised by elves at the North Pole, until he discovers that he is actually a human and that his father lives in New York. When Buddy ventures out to meet his dad, he only has a few requests… “I thought maybe we could make ginger bread houses, and eat cookie dough, and go ice skating, and maybe even hold hands.”

Since 2003, I have watched the comedic behavior of Will Farrell who plays Buddy the Elf, and as the laughs come, I am reminded of a few simple characteristics that apply to our every day life and that can greatly impact our leadership.

In fact, here are 5 Leadership Lessons from Elf:

  1.  Everyone has value, and everyone is special! Buddy does a great job seeing value in each person with whom he engages.  Whether they are a child, an executive or a maid, he views everyone through this lens of potential, value and joy, and encourages it out of them.  As leaders, when we choose to see in people what they don’t see in themselves, we create a space to show them what is possible!
  2. He models his message. “I like to smile. Smiling’s my favorite.”  Buddy engages every situation with clarity and confidence and does not waiver in his resolve to live out what he believes!  One of the greatest things that will build trust and earn respect for us as the leader is also to model our values, so that those we lead can follow our example.
  3. Perspective.  Buddy treats everyday like it’s Christmas.  The fun, hardworking culture in the elf shop has taught him to work as a team, and celebrate with anticipation what is to come.  Because of that, he carries a perspective that everyday holds expected joy, purpose and simple fun.  What would it look like if we walked in to our office with that perspective?  What would it sound like if we conveyed a sense of joyful anticipation for our team or project?  I bet we too would impact the culture and the atmosphere would change over time.
  4. Ownership. “I’m sorry I ruined your lives and crammed 11 cookies into the VCR.”  It’s a little comical how  specific Buddy’s apology to his father is, but what is great is that he is taking full ownership of the perceived wrong that has been done, that seems to be creating division.  As leaders,  when we take ownership of where we have fallen short or responded poorly, it shows those around us that taking ownership is valued in our culture.  It gives other people permission to mess up,  to own it AND then to move forward.  Ownership from the leader helps yield a healthy culture to grow in.
  5. Sing Loudly.  “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loudly for all to hear.”  Out of every scene, you probably know this scene the best! In this scene, people are  grumbling, curious and anxious, but when someone begins to sing…everything changes. The singing at first is soft, unheard by the masses, but shortly a few join in, then several others and one by one, the singing is the loudest thing you hear and the smiles are what is seen.  In the same way, in our organizations, there will always be talk, feelings, questions and other things circulating amongst our teams.  We have to be the loudest voice of encouragement, truth, vision, clarity, hope, support, heart and truth that our team hears.  So cheer loudly for those around you and it will be contagious!

This holiday season will go by quickly, it’s an amazing season and probably filled with lots of deadlines and demands.  I want to encourage you this season, find the fun, be a carrier of joy and model for your team how to lead well both personally and professionally!  Make sure Elf is on your list to watch this year, it’s always a good one!