A few weeks ago, I had an interesting conversation about leadership with a person I did not perceive as a leader: Santa Claus.
I had a few minutes to talk with a professional Santa, and when he heard that I was a leadership coach, his eyes lit up and he laughed.
“I bet you didn’t know that Santa teaches children about leadership!”
This statement was like a shot of adrenaline to my system. I replied, “tell me more, Santa.”
Here are his comments, paraphrased.
I teach children to ask for what they want.
A good leader asks his followers to do things. Just like children should be bold in asking for a pony, a new house, or a baby brother, a leader must be bold when asking their followers for the impossible. They must believe that is it possible.
I model that children should share and play Santa to others.
A leader must be grateful and think about the people they lead. A good leader gives gifts of love and knowledge, praise and appreciation. If they don’t, followers will perceive the leader as shallow and selfish.
I teach children about love and feeling good.
Think about how a child feels on Christmas Day when a pile of presents is about to be opened.
A leader needs to have empathy for each member of their team. They must be willing to express emotion – from sadness to joy – openly with others. Followers connect with a leader who is real.
The spirit of Santa teaches children that life isn’t fair, but they can do something to level the playing field.
During Christmas, children and adults are always striving to give gifts of money and time to those that are less fortunate. A good leader recognizes that every follower has unique strengths and weaknesses. The weaker person can benefit from other’s help, especially the leader’s. The leader can help them grow. The leader should also encourage the stronger performers, so the entire team can grow.
I can’t do my job without elves and reindeer. While I am the public face of Christmas, the hard work is done by these helpers.
A leader must always recognize and acknowledge the efforts of the team and the team’s supporters.
About that time, Santa had to turn his attention to some children. I told Santa, “Thank you for the priceless gift. May I share it?”
He laughed and said, “Of course!”