Is Santa a Good Leader?

Santa Claus makes things happen! 

Let’s face it, Santa Claus knows what he’s doing.  He has a clear vision and mission from which he never wavers.  He collects and monitors the needs of his customers and constantly exceeds their expectations. He created and manages an iconic brand that spans the globe (you have to love the beard and red suit!). He runs a slick operation – low overhead, cheap and loyal labor, good cash flow with high barriers to entry.  He out-sources production when it makes sense (how many Apple iPad II’s will he deliver this Christmas?).  He and his efficient elves work well under-pressure and always meet deadlines.  Somehow he manages his empire without complaining, with a jolly spirit and a smile.  He could stand to lose a few pounds, his work-life balance is a little off, and he has no defined succession plan – but, somehow he pulls it all together when it really matters. 

So Santa is the perfect leader, right?

Well maybe not.  Santa must have missed a day of MBA school, because he is a little weak with risk management. Think about it. On the most important night of his year, Christmas Eve, he entrusted his operation to an unknown reindeer with a red nose, all because Santa failed to analyze and create a backup plan ahead of time for bad weather.  The man lives in the North Pole, and he did not consider that he would run into fog and clouds somewhere in the world on Christmas Eve?  This is simply an unacceptable level of risk taking.

Now I know, Santa did make it work with Rudolph, and maybe Santa is a good judge of talent. I guess that the elves could have jerry-rigged something together at the last minute (maybe a GPS device) – but, still Santa was lucky.  What if an unproven Rudolph was not up to the job?  Then, what would have happened?  From a risk management perspective, this was a major slipup by the big man.

Santa Claus is a fictional character (sorry if this comes as a shock to some of you), but there is a lesson here for all leaders – always take the time to identify, quantify and prioritize risks.  Once you have listed everything that can go wrong, you need to create actions to mitigate or minimize the risks, as well as having a trigger system to tell you when to implement. 

Risk management is serious stuff and there is no quicker way to fatally hurt a brand (yes, even the Santa Claus brand), then to not have options available should your plan veer off course.

I wish you all a happy holiday season and peace, love and prosperity in 2012!

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About Dale Myers

A San Francisco Bay Area Project and Program Expert
This entry was posted in Leadership and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Is Santa a Good Leader?

  1. Adeline says:

    Very nice and entertaining article. Yes, even fictional characters like Santa Claus can teach us a thing or two more than just the importance of being nice.

  2. Malcolm says:

    What! He’s a fictional character?

    (Good read on risk management, by the way).

  3. Santa’s operation has done pretty well over the years. His supply chain seems to work, his just-in-time delivery never fails, and his brand is very visible.

    However, his operation seems excessively elf-dependent with high overhead (have you priced elf health insurance lately?). To position for the future, he should outsource production to lower cost sources, and perhaps set up distribution centers at key worldwide locations to reduce weather-related risks and avoid the North Pole logistical nightmare.

    • Dale Myers says:

      I will give him this information the next time we are together. Perhaps he will bring me an iPad II for giving him this idea!

      Thanks for taking the time to read – happy holidays to you and your family!

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