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Michael Maccoby
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Michael Maccoby

Michael Maccoby is an anthropologist and psychoanalyst globally recognized as an expert on leadership. He is the author of The Leaders We Need, And What Makes Us Follow.

Piloting His Own Sled

Few businesses have survived as long as Santa Claus's gift-giving enterprise. And few leaders have been able to stay in the driver's seat as long as Santa, riding high and weathering every storm. Business has a lot to learn from Santa.

Santa owns his own business, and since it's a private company, he doesn't have to be transparent about his operations. He doesn't have to account to other owners or investors, and he has no debt.

We can only guess where the revenue comes from that allows Santa to buy supplies and deliver goods for free. Maybe he gets royalties from everyone who uses his image in their products or advertising? In perhaps his greatest success, Santa continues to earn an unlimited supply of free advertising.

He has effectively captured popular imagination since the mid-nineteenth century, in songs, theater, films, TV, and toys. His is one of the most valuable trademarks in the world. And he has been smart not to change his image very much over the years, at least since Clement Clarke Moore, a New York City professor, wrote a Christmas poem for his children in 1822.

No one has ever reported any labor conflicts from the elves who run Santa's production. They must enjoy their work. It's meaningful making children happy, and it requires craftsmanship. Santa treats them well, and they willingly follow him.

There have been criticisms of Santa from some self-styled educational experts who think his evaluation of the world's kids into only two categories, "naughty" and "nice," is unfair to those children who, they say, should not be held responsible for their bad behavior due to social factors that have "caused" them to be mean. But while life isn't always fair, our society cannot survive unless we hold our citizens accountable for their actions, and Santa does so by starting early with our children: he presents a clear incentive to them to be nice and not naughty

Santa should be a model for CEOs, not only for creating a production shop with hardworking employees and happy customers or for furthering the common good by promoting niceness but also because of his personal example. He doesn't just remain above things, riding in his private air transportation. He pilots his own sled and he delivers the goods.

Note: This post was co-authored with Max Maccoby.

By Michael Maccoby

 |  December 23, 2008; 11:22 AM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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