10 secrets from the ultimate servant leader

Posted by on Feb 3, 2013

It’s bigger than Walmart, more magical than Disney, and faster than FedEx.

Its leader has the intelligence of an Einstein, the creative powers of an Edison, and the caring spirit of a Mother Teresa.

His look is unconventional: lots of red, white fur trim, big white beard, red stocking hat, massive belt, all-weather boots, clay pipe. His well-fed rotundity is matched by a gymnast’s agility and marathon-runner’s endurance.

Santa Claus has turned his North Pole operation into the biggest and best organization the world has never seen. But how?

Here’s the answer in the form of 10 big strategies. Put them to work in your own life and you’ll see some real magic.

1. Defy gravity by having a meaningful mission
Is Santa a toy manufacturer? Is he a distributor? Is he a delivery specialist? He’s all of those and more, but his work is fueled by a higher purpose. Santa is in the inspiration business. He inspires us to appreciate our friends and family, to be generous, and to recognize that goodness is alive and well in our world.

2. Be a believer
Aren’t we straining reality to think that reindeer can fly? Perhaps. But you don’t bring a Santa-sized mission to life by being a skeptic.

3. Have a sense of humor
How does Santa Claus stay calm in the face of so many responsibilities? Humor. The man is jolly personified. When the going gets tough, he always finds good cause to ho ho ho.

4. Be willing to get dirty to get the job done
Does Santa go up and down chimneys because he’s fond of soot? Hardly. He does it because it’s the quickest and quietest way to get inside without a house key.

5. Encourage the copycats
With thousands of people pretending to be Santa each year, doesn’t the real Santa want to lawyer up and sue their beards off? Just the opposite. He encourages the well-intended wannabes, seeing them as a way to be in countless places at the same time.

6. Make the most of the most extreme differences
Does Santa Claus look for certain “types” to work at the North Pole? He focuses on strengths. When thick fog and heavy snow threatened delivery one year, Santa turned to a young novice who had become something of a laughingstock. The newly empowered Rudolph used his blazing beacon to lead the other reindeer to a safe and on-time delivery.

7. Be thoughtful about who and how you serve
Isn’t the “naughty and nice” list a bit harsh? Sure it is. But Santa knows that his mission would be compromised if he gave gifts to just anyone.

8. Get creative in living your mission
Does Santa fly past the children who fall short in a given year? No. He leaves each of them a nice bag of coal. It’s mostly designed to nudge kids in the right direction — but it can also be used to heat the home, boil water, and cook food.

9. Be yourself no matter what
Doesn’t Santa feel a bit silly prancing around in his fur-trimmed outfit and soup-catching beard? Not at all. He enjoys being himself. And as the greatest organizational success story of all time, he knows that his standout qualities keep the Santa brand eternally strong.

10. Savor your accomplishments
Does Santa get compensated? Yes, in three ways. Part of his pay is served up when he returns from his annual deliveries. That’s when he sits with colleagues to enjoy a huge stack of fresh-baked cookies. Santa’s second form of pay comes not from the kitchen but from the heart and mind. As he rests in his elf-made recliner, he contemplates his mission: Did he walk the talk of generosity? Check. Did he stir our imagination? Check. Did he renew humanity’s faith that goodness still exists? Check. Did his work inspire others to follow suit? Check. Then he settles back in his recliner, closes his eyes, and welcomes his third form of compensation: a long and well-earned rest.