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    5 Leadership Lessons from Buddy the Elf (really)
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    5 Leadership Lessons from Buddy the Elf (really)

    December 2016

    I’m pregnant.  Really, really pregnant.  The baby is due any day now, and my preferred location is anywhere that allows me to be in the reclined position. Over the past several weeks, my desire to get up and go has diminished significantly.  I’m tired, achy, and nothing really fits anymore anyway.  I swear I hear the couch calling my name. Who am I to ignore it?  

    To pass the time, I’m watching movies.  This past weekend I revisited one of my favorite Christmas flicks, “Elf.”  If you haven’t seen it, you must.  It’s hilarious.  In it, a man (Will Ferrell), who’s been raised by elves at the North Pole, heads to New York City in search of his real father.  His cheery disposition stands in stark contrast to the cynical world around him.  Directed by Jon Favreau, Elf is a yearly must-see for my family and many others.  It really is that funny.

    But something else struck me about Elf this year: leadership lessons.  Yes, believe it or not, in the middle of the laughter, I caught some valuable lessons that can serve entrepreneurs. (Really, I’m not crazy.)  

    Here are 5 things Buddy the Elf can teach you about being a successful business owner:

    1.Treat everyday like Christmas.

    This is actually rule #1 for elves, but as a business leader, you can make everyday feel like Christmas by giving generously to your team -- giving your time, affirmation, support, and even constructive criticism.  Financial gifts are great but too infrequent to make a lasting impact.  Think deeply about what your team needs to thrive on a daily basis, and how you can give to that effort.

    2. There’s room for everyone on the nice list.

    Believe in people.  It’s easy to single the odd person (or low-producing, struggling employee) out in our organizations, but leaders have to be able to notice and utilize people’s strengths, and find ways for them to contribute positively to the team.  When we do this, we spur creativity (and productivity) because we allow the strengths, talents, and diversity of our people and teams to flourish.  So don’t banish employees to the naughty list. Instead, notice, differentiate, and intentionally engage the variety of people around you.

    3.  The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

    Buddy the Elf said this whenever someone seemed sad or had lost the Christmas spirit.  He could sense their distress. As the leader of your organization, you need to develop similar skills of empathy, compassion, and understanding. You need to know when to push, when to back off, and when people just need a bit of encouragement.

    Above all, you need to be the most positive person in the room.  Aim to be solution-oriented and resilient when everyone else thinks the sky is falling.   Radiate vision, enthusiasm, and hope, and people will be inspired to overcome adversity and give their best for your organization.

    4. Make gingerbread houses, eat cookie dough, go ice skating, and maybe even hold hands.

    Great leaders know how to make work fun.  They create a vision and a culture that people want belong to, and one they want to give their best to.  They know that working hard and working for the greater good can also be incredibly joyous.

    Be like Buddy and infuse fun into everyday moments.  And hold hands and stick together through the process.

    5. Don’t Be a Cotton-Headed Ninny Muggins.

    Buddy the Elf did not hesitate to call out a wrong if it existed.  He knew a useless elf when he saw one, and he did not just go with the flow.  Business leaders must do the same.  We cannot choose to look the other way when a problem exists on an organizational, team, or individual level.  We must face the issues that could otherwise erode the culture of our organizations.

    When issues arise, call them out by name, and get to work remedying them.

    There is wisdom in Elf!  I hope you take the time this holiday season to not only watch this movie, but to relax and celebrate with family and friends.  It’s a hectic season but one which should be restful.  I’m doing my very best to rest, right here on this couch.  I’m leading by example, just like Buddy.

    Happy Holidays!!


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