10 Leadership Secrets from Santa


While shopping for a book for his granddaughter one holiday season, Eric Harvey pondered the leadership abilities of Santa Claus–whose global toy manufacturing and distribution business enjoys legendary status. What are the secrets to his success?

Harvey, @InspiredLiving on Twitter, has written and published numerous leadership books as president of WalkTheTalk.com. He's learned over the years that if you provide an engaging metaphor for leadership lessons, readers have a much better chance of remembering them. So he wrote The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus, (Simple Truths, 2015), which HR professionals are using to reinforce their leadership training. It’s a light-hearted, but educational, stocking stuffer for the leaders or potential leaders on your gift list.

In spirit of the season, here are 10 tips from the big guy in the red suit:

Build a wonderful workshop. 

Obviously, Santa has a top-notch behind-the-scenes team that helps him prepare for his annual delivery. So how does he keep them motivated and inspired the rest of the year?
He focuses on his team’s extraordinary mission—“to bring joy to all boys and girls,” Harvey says. Likewise, keep highlighting your organization’s mission so your employees can understand the meaning and purpose of what they’re doing. Make sure that everyone knows what values are important and then help workers turn those good beliefs into every day behaviors.

Choose your reindeer wisely.

Because employees are the ones who ultimately ensure your mission happens, staffing is your most important responsibility. Invest your time and energy in hiring the right people and promoting those with leadership qualities. Diversity in staff will give you an advantage.

Make a list and check it twice.

Create goals that are specific and yet flexible. Gain staff buy-in and commitment, which is critical to achieving those goals. Adjust as needed. Maximize the resources available to you, making the most of your time, resources, materials and talent.

Listen to the elves.

Put yourself in the situation of an elf on the third shift who doesn’t get to ride in the sleigh. As leaders move up the ladder, they start believing they got to their position because they’re smarter than everyone else. But the best leaders listen to the ideas and suggestions of members of their team who are often closer to the problem.

Say “ho, ho, ho” but don’t forget the snow.

To build a workshop filled with positive energy, Santa makes it a point to recognize the positive performance of every elf and reindeer. By creating contagious enthusiasm, you can solve problems together.

Give them the gifts that last a lifetime.

Provide employees with the skills to be successful. Just training them to do their jobs isn’t enough. Help them learn and grow and develop as team members. Teach them how to work with others and to solve conflicts in a professional manner.

Get beyond the red wagons.

Help everyone deal with the realities of change. Red wagons used to be the gift children wanted most; but now they want electronic games. Explain why change is needed.

Share the milk and cookies.

Help employees see the difference they make. Develop an “attitude of gratitude.”

Find out who’s naughty and nice.

Confront performance problems early. Give frequent and specific feedback on how employees are doing. Identify any obstacles they may be facing and try to eliminate them. Help them learn from mistakes and successes.

Be good for goodness’ sake.

Leaders must model the behavior they expect from others. That means following all the rules, telling the truth, and never breaking promises. “You’ve got to live up to those principles because you are constantly being watched. The best role model for the culture of the organization is the example that the manager exhibits,” Harvey says. “Without the trust and confidence of your team, you’ll never reach a level of excellence.” Doing right isn’t a sometime thing—everything counts.


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