The Leadership Secrets of Santa Claus (Book Review)

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Leadership Secrets of Santa ClausWhat can Santa teach us about leading a meaningful mission, creating a great workplace, building the right team, and creating pride in craftsmanship?

Quite a lot.  Santa has been improving his game for quite a while, so he can teach us quite a bit about leading and learning for work and life.

In the book, The Leadership Secrets of Santa Clause, best-selling author Eric Harvey shares some of the most insightful leadership lessons from old Saint Nick.

Let’s dive in …

Chapters at a Glance

  • Build a Wonderful Workshop
  • Choose Your Reindeer Wisely
  • Make a List and Check It Twice
  • Listen to the Elves
  • Say Ho, Ho, Ho, But Don’t Forget the Snow
  • Give Them Gifts That Last a Lifetime
  • Get Beyond the Red Wagons
  • Share the Milk and Cookies
  • Find Out Who’s Naughty and Nice
  • Be Good for Goodness Sake
  • Closing Thoughts

What’s In It For You?

  • How to build a culture of positivity and personal excellence
  • How to teach people success above and beyond the job
  • How to leverage the power of diversity
  • How to pick the people that will make everyone happier down the road
  • How to set the example that builds a better brand for you, your work, your employees, and your future

Key Features

Here are some of the key features of The Leadership Secrets of Santa Clause:

  • Real-world lessons learned.  While the author might wrap the leadership lessons as a gift from Santa, Harvey draws from some of his toughest personal lessons learned in leadership over the years.
  • Chapter summaries.  Each chapter features a quick list of the most important take aways.
  • Summary checklist.  At the end of the book is a consolidated set of reminders to help you turn insight into action.
  • Words to remember.  There is a section in the book that highlights some of the key take aways in the form of well-phrased phrases and memorable quotes.

Here is a sampling of some of my favorite nuggets from the book …

Love What You Do

When you do something you love and it’s something you believe in, you find the energy and strength to keep going, no matter what.

Via The Leadership Secrets of Santa Clause:

“No, it’s not easy being Santa Claus.  But in spite of what, I love what I do.  People need me–they depend on me.  Were doing something important here.  And knowing that gives me the energy to carry the sack, lead the pack, and keep coming back.”

Make the Mission the Main Thing

The mission reminds people what matters.  When you have a mission that people believe in and care about, they can deal with the ups, the downs, and the challenges that come with the job.

Via The Leadership Secrets of Santa Clause:

“What’s your vision of your workplace? Do you see candy canes and chestnuts?  Wood chips flying in the air and falling into neat little piles? Whistling and singing? Busy little elves and reindeer, with smiles on their faces, scurrying around to make and package toys?

If so, your image is right on–except for the candy canes and chestnuts…and the woodchips (we rarely use wood any more).

Yes, we do run a productive and happy place here.  And that’s in spite of the intense pressures and challenges we face–ones that undoubtedly were not included in your vision of us.  So how do we do it? Just how do I keep everyone, including myself, on track and motivated throughout each year–all for one long night’s big splash? 

The answer is basic and simple: through an unwavering and uncompromising focus on OUR MISSION.”

Listen to the Elves

The people closest to the problems might just be your greatest source of insight.

Via The Leadership Secrets of Santa Clause:

“A quick investigation revealed that my new procedure and the assembly  machine were both flawed. ‘We could have told you,’ said one of the elves, ‘if you had just asked us in the beginning…and really listened to what we had to say.’”

Ask What You Can Do to Make Things Better

You could guess at how to make things better.  Or you could just ask.

Via The Leadership Secrets of Santa Clause:

“We like when you occasionally work next to us–giving us a hand and keeping you in touch with the operation.  But the thing we appreciate the most is when you ask what you can do to make things easier and better for us, and better for the workshop–and then you do those that are reasonable and appropriate.”

What Does Your Signature Stand For?

Give the gift that keeps on giving: the gift of pride and professionalism.  Everybody wants to leave a mark in some way.  Lead by example and teach people that they leave their mark by how they show up, the work they do, how they do the work.

Via The Leadership Secrets of Santa Clause:

“Take a blank sheet of paper and write your signature on it.

Now look at it…stare at it…think about it. What does that signature stand for? What kind of work does it represent?  What professional reputation comes with it? Make it meaningful–because it is attached to everything you do.”

Teach “the Business” of the Business

When you teach people “the business” of the business you are in, you create partners and people who really care about the business.

Via The Leadership Secrets of Santa Clause:

“For us, teaching ‘the business’ of the business has been good business.  It’s given the elves and reindeer additional opportunities to get involved in what we do, it’s helped them grow and develop, and  it’s produced greater workshop-wide acceptance, support, and understanding of the need for change.

Most importantly, it makes them feel like true ‘partners’ in the running of our North Pole operations…because THEY ARE!”

Santa shares three way she found that work to teach “the business” of the business:

  1. Having different elves and reindeer attend, observe, and even participate in non-confidential senior-staff meetings.
  2. Cross-training and rotating assignments within departments so employees can understand and approach the functions of, and challenges faced by, their coworkers.
  3. A departmental ‘swap’ program that allows individuals to experience how other business units operate…and how we’re all interdependent in achieving our overall mission.

Look for Opportunities to Give “Atta-Elves”

If good little girls and boys get all the toys, what do good reindeer and elves get?  Thanking people for doing things right, reinforces the right things.

Via The Leadership Secrets of Santa Clause:

“I decided then and there to forget the typical Elves shouldn’t be rewarded for just doing their jobs and I’m too busy to give recognition rationalizations.  I chose to make a change–one that definitely turned out to be for the better…for everyone.

Since that experience, I’ve worked hard at developing one of the most important characteristics of effective leadership: an ‘attitude of gratitude.’  I’ve learned to truly appreciate workers who meet or exceed my expectations through my actions and behaviors.  I look for, and seize, opportunities to give verbal and written atta-elves (and atta-deers)–opportunities to say thank you for doing right.”

Take it from Santa … be the change you want to see in the workplace, where you and everyone around you can thrive with growth and greatness.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. I have to say, I almost didn’t read this, but now I’m glad I did. It contained lots of great insight & reminded me of timeless practices. Thanks, J.D.!

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