As much as I love watching holiday movies just for fun, sometimes I can’t help but see the leadership lessons embedded within these beloved stories and their primary characters. Or maybe I just want to justify watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or A Christmas Story for the umpteenth time…‘cause I’m learning important lessons, right?
Here are some leadership lessons from a few of my favorite holiday films: (plus, a few fun bonus lessons)
Home Alone: Ingenuity and Growth in the Face of Challenge
Every time I watch this movie, I’m inspired by Kevin’s surprising ingenuity. The unforeseen challenge of being left home alone forces him to access new resourcefulness, creativity and courage. We’re all delighted watching an 8-year-old buy his own groceries (complete with coupons), cook himself dinner (albeit microwave mac and cheese…yum), and cut down his own Christmas tree. A once bratty and dependent kid ends up growing in gratitude and independence. If only we could approach some of our challenges in the same way.
Bonus Lesson: Make sure to properly secure any front-stoop statues before ordering pizza delivery.
A Christmas Story: Persistence and Blind Spots
So many lessons appear in this holiday gem. For me, the one that stands out most is related to Ralphie’s unwavering pursuit of a Red Ryder BB Gun. He holds firm to the dream of acquiring this ultimate accessory of boyhood heroism in spite of the naysayers and pessimism coming at him from every angle. How firmly do we hold on to our vision and dreams, or do we give up at the first brush with negative feedback? A counter-lesson, however, comes into play when Ralphie’s dream finally does come true and the unheeded warning of “you’ll shoot your eye out” bites him in the….well, eye. This points to the fact that there may be something important to pay attention to within some of the critical feedback we receive, if we’re not too blind to see it.
Bonus Lesson: Think before accepting a triple dog dare, especially when it comes to flagpoles at winter.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Going Big is Not Always Better
Everyone would generally agree that having high standards and being driven by excellence are good qualities for a leader to possess. But in Clark Griswold, we see how the overuse of any positive trait can become a fatal flaw (and also the source of hilarity in this case). Clark’s unchecked tendency to go overboard with everything he does, including having a “fun, old-fashioned family Christmas” no matter the cost, brings about lots of emotional and physical pain. Where do we get so focused on our big vision that we forget to maintain balance, incorporate others, or remain grounded?
Bonus Lesson: Check your Christmas tree for squirrels before bringing it into the house.