As a continuation of part 1 in this blog series, I mine a few more favorite holiday movies for leadership lessons. I hope this inspires you to watch (or re-watch) these delightful films, and to improve some aspect of your leadership approach this holiday season.
It’s a Wonderful Life: Your Value, and the Value of Friends
George Bailey didn’t realize the value of his presence in Bedford Falls until the angel Clarence came along and showed him what the town would have been like without him – a dreary, harsh and sleazy place. Like George, sometimes leaders can fall into a negative or despairing perspective in the face of setbacks. We get dejected and question whether progress has really occurred, or whether people even care. It’s easy to then forget the positive contributions and progress we’ve made, and all the people we’ve impacted in small and big ways along the way. But as George came to find out, our very presence can make a huge difference. Let’s realize this and maximize our presence for good!
As the film concludes, George’s building and loan company is saved through the overwhelming generosity of his friends, who make donations to resolve his financial troubles. This highlights the importance of reciprocal relationships built on generosity and trust. Because of George’s years of unwavering care for the townspeople of Bedford Falls, they were all prepared to help him at his time of need. As Clarence writes to George, “Remember no man is a failure if he has friends.” What kind of relationships are you cultivating? Do you give generously of your time, efforts and attention to your friends? Or do you only pay attention when you stand to gain something?
Bonus Lesson: You’re probably not likely to carry around a folded newspaper, but in the case you do, try not to put $8,000 inside of it. This tends to be problematical.
White Christmas: The Importance of Communication and Using Your Influence
One element of the plot in this timeless holiday classic hinges on a communication blunder – Betty Haynes mistakenly believes that Bob Wallace is planning to exploit and expose the plight of retired army general Thomas Waverly on national TV. Yet she and Bob never discuss it directly in order to reveal or resolve the misunderstanding. Because of this, a wedge is driven between Betty and Bob’s relationship for part of the movie. If they’d only have talked openly about the situation, they could have cleared things up a whole 20 minutes earlier!…albeit the storyline wouldn’t have been as interesting. As we apply this to our reality as leaders, let’s get curious about where we’re not communicating with enough clarity, or when we shy away from dealing with conflict directly. If we sense that someone’s frustrated with us, and we don’t open up the lines of communication, one of us might just end up at a New York nightclub singing a depressing ballad about it.
In the end, Bob’s intentions are good, and the dynamic foursome of Bob, Phil, Betty and Judy use their talent and influence to attract visitors to General Waverly’s Vermont ski lodge, saving him from financial ruin. For me, this serves as a reminder of the ways we can all use our own leadership influence to rally support for causes that really need our collective attention.
Bonus Lesson: Don’t ever listen to news delivered by a nosey housekeeper who eavesdropped on someone else’s conversation. Seems like a no-brainer, but just making sure.
Elf: Be Yourself – Uniqueness and Authenticity Are What Break Through
If nothing else, Buddy the Elf is unapologetically himself. His quirky elf behavior, although obnoxious at times and yet constantly hilarious, is what helps him break through to reach both Jovie and his newly-discovered dad, Walter Hobbs. Buddy’s authenticity and nonconformity help him stand out to attract the attention of love interest Jovie. And his disruptively playful and joyous take on life is what jolts his new dad Walter into reconnecting with what matters. Finally, it’s only Buddy’s refreshingly unique story – when turned into a children’s book – that ends up saving Walter’s bookselling career. That’s because uniqueness and authenticity are what break through and resonate most strongly. As a leader, what are the ways you soften your unique edges to appear more like everyone else? How might you be more authentic and true to yourself?
Bonus Lesson: Don’t cram 11 cookies into the VCR (in case you still have one of those). Same rule applies for DVD players, video game consoles or other electronic devices.
Did you enjoy these leadership lessons from holiday pop culture? Here are some personal branding lessons from Rudolph, Scrooge and Frosty.