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Five Leadership Lessons from The Christmas Story

Leg Lamp

There are many lessons to be learned from the great holiday movie, The Christmas Story.   We know that you will shoot your eye out if you are not careful and that not all things worshiped are truly golden.  But amid the many nostalgic and humorous romps and bounces of this classic, there are a number of valuable things patient observers can take away.

For those uninitiated, it is the story of 12-year-old Ralphie, who dreams of owning a Red Ryder BB gun.  His mother, his teacher and Santa remind him of the dangers of BB guns. A seemingly relentless stream of obstacles prevent him from achieving his lifelong dream.

If you are a fan, it is a delightful family film that embraces the magic of the holidays through the eyes of an Indiana boy in the late 1940s. But amid triple-dog dares and frozen flagpoles, there are valuable leadership lessons to be discovered

Spoiler Alert!  You should watch The Christmas Story before reading this blog post.

1.  Keep Applying Your Influence

Ralphie wants the Red Ryder BB gun with all his heart.  He begins a carefully orchestrated campaign to build support for his goal.  He tries to influence his mother with a clandestinely placed Boys Life ad in her daily magazine reading. He works on his elementary school teacher by writing an essay on Red Ryder.  He lobbies Santa Claus at the local department store.  While discouraged at every turn, Ralphie keeps on task and stays focused.  While his three primary audiences resist his push, Ralphie discovers that his words have been heard and ultimately, perseverance pays off.

2.  Never Overestimate the Bullies in Your World

Scut Farkus, the yellow-eyed devil that stalks Ralphie throughout the film, pushes our hero to the brink.  In a blinding display of flying fists,  Ralphie faces his foe and destroys the myth and monster that haunted him for so long.  Ralphie and his boys allowed Scut and his toady to intimidate and foster fear within their elementary school.  Submission is the biggest ally of the bully.  In your work environment, do you have a Scut Farkus?  Are you letting him/her intimidate you, belittle you in front of coworkers or prospects, and undermine your team’s confidence? Ralphie took it for just so long and then stood up to Scut.  Don’t make your competition bigger than they really are.  Take them on directly, honestly and without hesitation.

3.  Loyalty is the Essence of All Relationships

With one exception when Ralphie rats out Flick (under the influence of  water board-like torture involving Lifebuoy), the film embraces the importance of loyalty.  Loyalty to parents. Loyalty to friends. Loyalty to your little brother. Ralphie recognizes his tribe is an essential part of his identity and character.  While independent in many ways, Ralphie remains loyal and very close to those important in his life.

4.  Worship the Right Things

The movie examines the coveting of a variety of physical treasures — not just the Red Ryder rifle, but a Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder and a bizarre lamp that looks like a severed limb from a burlesque act. Both of these sidebar stories provide thoughtful (and fun) lessons on true value, relationships and truth in advertising.  One must learn that real value should not be accepted on first impressions or by popular demand.

5.  Masterful Storytelling Captures and Captivates

Nothing holds the attention of people like a good story. Drama sells and it always offers conflict and resolution.  When you weave a tale and present it grandly, audiences lean forward on their chairs.  Jean Shepherd, the original author of The Christmas Story, was a master raconteur.  He knew that you needed a hero people could relate to, escalating conflict, emotional resolution and brilliant delivery.  The best sales people and the finest public affairs executives know how to tell a story that is relevant, inspirational and persuasive.

Persuasive influence, not overestimating the competition, recognizing true life values, loyalty and storytelling – are all important traits of business and community leaders.

And to all, a good night.

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2 thoughts on “Five Leadership Lessons from The Christmas Story

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