The Failed Leader We Love
At first glance, Santa appears to fail as a leader.
His organization is overly centralized. Instead of focusing on overarching strategy and delegating the details to others, Santa makes all the decisions himself. Was little Johnny naughty or nice? Does he deserve the "God of War III" video game he asked for? These are not questions that should entangle a leader, yet Santa handles each and every customer-service request.
Under Santa's leadership, his organization has never developed upper or middle managers. There is one big Kahuna and everyone else is an Elf. Have you ever heard of an Elf being promoted? Further, Santa works his Elves like around the clock for scant compensation. They have never been allowed to organize or even ask for a raise. He provides no health care plan, 401(k) match, or on-site day care.
A leader understands the value of praise. But Santa tales all the credit. You want a present? You have to ask Santa. Ignore the Elves who have done all the work. Yet Santa, demonstrating his limited understanding of employee relations, thinks they are happy in their work.
Despite exploiting labor, Santa's products are so uncompetitive that he must give them away. His business model is clearly broken, but Santa refuses to admit it. Year after year, he persists in compiling huge inventories and then giving them away in the face of market failure.
Santa seems stuck in the 19th century. He has no understanding of modern marketing, advertising or finance. He still uses outmoded and inefficient methods of distribution and transportation. In doing so he befouls the environment as anyone who has witnessed falling reindeer feces can attest.
Grossly overweight and dressed like a cartoon figure, he does not look like a leader.
And yet, we still value and love him.
After centuries in the limelight his reputation remains unblemished. Unlike leaders on Wall Street and in the White House, Santa neither invades countries nor securitizes sub-prime mortgages.
His good humor, joyfulness, and generosity create fierce loyalty among his young adherents. Like all great leaders he inspires belief.
He is genuine and consistent. We know we can rely on him to complete his mission regardless of air traffic and weather delays.
He is kind to small children and animals. Would we want our gifts brought down the chimney by a cranky delivery person?
Santa's simple performance appraisal system (either naughty or nice) is useful in a year marked with ethical breaches. Bernard Madoff and Rod Blagojevich will receive lumps of coal this year. Bernie will try to convince people to invest in his lump; Rod may try to appoint his to a Senate seat.
Santa's leadership remains a beacon of best practices. May we have more of it 2009: A generosity of spirit and a willingness to bring joy to the hearths of virtually all.
Posted by: artistkvip1 | December 28, 2008 1:00 AM
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Posted by: jameswork52 | December 27, 2008 2:16 PM
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