Rudolph: One of the Great Leaders of All Time!

The holiday season merrily provokes the decking of halls and the jingling of bells. There’s something about Christmas that programs our brains to focus on questionable sweater patterns and multicolored light decorations. Beyond Yuletide carols and roasted chestnuts, the Christmas spirit gives us the chance to tap into the purity and passion of our childhood holiday traditions… and it’s the Christmas spirit that led me right into a great lesson on leadership.

While at a recent speaking engagement for Chevron, the leadership team divided up into several different groups for an exercise. The task was to come together and draw on a sheet of paper a vision of what a “Clear Leader” might look like. One group concluded that the ears are the biggest attribute of a great leader because truly listening is a must-have skill. Another group drew and presented a pair of oversized eyes after agreeing that being a great leader requires great vision, the ability to see around corners. But there was one team that came up with a creative model for leadership and it seems so fitting to share during this holiday season.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was their model of leadership. In fact, during this exercise they labeled him the greatest leader of all time. Before I had a chance to brush off the legitimacy of their idea, they cited seven indisputable and intriguing reasons:


1. Rudolph’s story depicts him stepping up in the face of adversity. Without his willingness to do so, there would have been no leader and no Christmas.

2. Rudolph’s hoofed adventure distinguished him as a beacon of light–clearly identifying him as a leader.

3. Rudolph worked with the team despite his recognition (at least in song) that he was a star.

4. Rudolph surrounded himself with goal-oriented, hard-working reindeer.

5. Rudolph was smart; he was clever enough to survive delivering presents in the South despite having to do so during deer-hunting season!

6. Rudolph always maintained a positive attitude while leading the group.

7. Rudolph embraced his differences and turned them into strengths.


I must admit I was so pleasantly amused by the concepts realized at the Chevron event that I played the Burl Ives Claymation video version of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer to my young children last week. In doing so, I identified another leading quality of the red-nosed one. Rudolph was driven by great passion.

If you recall, it was not until one of the does who had come to watch the reindeer games told him he was cute that Rudolph had enough motivation to take flight for the first time. Passion drove him to places he wouldn’t have otherwise gone. While Dasher and Blitzen fell into their normal routines, Rudolph’s passion sparked the determination needed to unlock greatness and exceed expectations. All great leaders have passion.

As we enjoy the holiday season, lets hope we also get to enjoy the benefits of being or working with a great leader. Are there any characteristics of Rudolph that stick out to you? Join the conversation today.


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