Santa Claus and Leadership

By Dr. Robert Boggs DLA Land & Maritime People and Culture

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I am, after all, running a business here, I’m a boss. I’ve got responsibilities—both to the gift-getters and the gift-makers. There are workers to lead, letters to read, orders to fill, processes to manage, stuff to buy, stuff to make, standards to maintain, new technologies to adopt, skills to develop, elf problems to solve and reindeer droppings to scoop (although I delegate that one). Trust me, I’ve got some big and not-always-easy-fitting boots to fill.

― Santa Claus

Well, the quote above might not really be a quote by Santa Claus (depends on if you believe or not), but I’m trusting in the authors (Eric Harvey, David Cottrell, Al Lucia and Mike Hourigan) who shared the quote in their book The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus: How to Get Big Things Done in YOUR ‘workshop’ all Year Long.

A few years ago I had a college student who wanted to do a leadership assessment on Santa Claus. This was different, to say the least. I was curious and pleasantly surprised when my student referenced “The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus.” I was so curious about the request, I decided to buy the book and read it myself. Being a Santa Claus enthusiast, I was more than pleasantly surprised by the book’s content and learnable lessons. Each December I revisit the lessons I learned from Santa and want to share these lessons with you.

Like so many others, every holiday season I review my list of goals for the current year and make a new list for the coming year. I include leadership goals because leaders (we’re all leaders) should always be learning, growing and improving. Setting personal leadership goals is a great way to ensure both personal and organizational development throughout the year.

The authors provide a great checklist (with a few minor changes) used by Santa Claus that we might all find useful as we work towards improving our leadership skills over the next year. If the list works for Santa Claus, it might just work for the rest of us.

Build a Wonderful Workshop

  • Make the mission the main thing
  • Focus on your people as well as your purpose
  • Let values be your guide

Choose Your Reindeer Wisely

  • Hire tough so you can manage easy
  • Promote the right ones…for the right reasons
  • Go for the diversity advantage

Make a List and Check it Twice

  • Plan your work
  • Work your plan
  • Make the most of what you have

Listen to the Elves

  • Open your ears to participation
  • Pay attention to how you’re perceived
  • Walk awhile in their shoes

Manage Change

  • Help everyone accept the reality of change
  • Remember and support your customers
  • Teach “the business” of the business

Share the Milk and Cookies

  • Help others see the difference they make
  • Do right by those who do right
  • Share the glory and pass along recognition

Find Out Who’s Naughty and Nice

  • Confront performance problems…early
  • Coach “The Majority In the Middle”
  • Don’t forget “The Super Stars” (recognize superior performance)

Be Good for Goodness Sake

  • Set the example
  • Establish guidelines and accountability
  • Remember that everything (and everyone) counts

I hope you find Santa’s leadership secrets of value. I hear the leadership secrets have been very effective at the North Pole.

Dr. Robert Boggs, Director, People and Culture