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Leadership Lessons from Scrooge and the Grinch

Image: one1more2time3 blog

We follow John Kotter on Forbes. We share a lot of his perspectives on leadership, notably on how one should build and sustain an inclusive, transformational leadership mindset.

He found a leadership lesson in the Scrooge/Crachit relationship within Dicken’s classic Christmas story, in the process through which Scrooge had his eyes opened to the type of person he had become. He was unwillingly confronted with the truth about how his actions affected those who followed him, and reduced the number of people willing to follow him (among other bad effects).

How about the Grinch?

Image of Grinch

We find another telling leadership lesson in the story about how the Grinch Stole Christmas. Here we find a highly passionate activist bent on revenge, who creates a highly successful plan to achieve his objectives. Yet, in the end, he finds the mission had the wrong goal. When he finally stopped to listen in the final scenes, he discovered the truth about Christmas, changed his plans (also a good leadership lesson!) and achieved a better goal with the same enthusiasm and effectiveness.

The Sources of Bad Goal Setting

The Grinch was highly effective as a manager, yet his beliefs and assumptions led him to chase the wrong goals. Why? Kotter emphasizes how a senior executive can accumulate feelings of entitlement  This leads to beliefs that masquerade as facts in the executive’s head that can close her or him off from the creative input of their own highly talented team.

Somehow the old question “what does an assumption do?” falls out of an executive’s habitual self-reflection when it applies to his or her own assumptions.”

“The mark of great leadership is a leader who carefully listens to and considers the perspective of each person on the team — someone whom people want to follow,” writes Kotter.

Here we find our “pursuit of truth” mantra. Great leaders need to seek the truth, and challenge beliefs and assumptions that experience tells them once worked, but reality could expose as out-dated and counterproductive. Kotter, again:

“Once everyone is on the same page, aligned and moving in the right direction, people begin to realize hidden beliefs that they have built up over time…Through increased dialog, providing context, challenging assumptions, asking questions and most importantly, listening — interpretation and belief are replaced by mutual understanding and engagement.”

Real efforts at communication reveal old beliefs and assumptions for the frauds they are, and clear the decks for better ideas. Here we also find our own emphasis on aligned, passionate action. Energetically engaged people working at cross-purposes can kills productivity as fast as disengagement!

The Grinch opened his ears and re-engaged his clear bias towards action with a better goal. Scrooge had his eyes opened to the deficiencies of his beliefs, and opened himself up to accept new ideas.

Both should inspire us to do the same within our own leadership mindset in 2014!

Have these parallels between story and life inspired you? Do you see these parallels as useful lessons at all? What other holiday classics contain lessons we can apply to being better leaders at work and in life?


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