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A Christmas Carol for Leaders: Timeless Holiday Movie Messages for the Modern Executive

A Christmas Carol for Leaders: Timeless Holiday Movie Messages for the Modern Executive

December 2023

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As the Northern Hemisphere cozies up with hot drinks and strolls through twinkly markets, the Southern Hemisphere is basking in the sun with cool drinks, picturing Santa in his summer best.

But here in Belgium, I’m reveling in the simple pleasures—crunching on speculoos, enjoying (too much) Belgian chocolate, sipping a glass of Glühwein, and creating special moments with my better half.

Now, onto holiday movies… That’s why you’re here, right? Sure, they can be as cheesy as a festive fondue, but if you look closely, there’s more to them. Believe it or not, there are leadership lessons tucked between scenes of snowmen and sleigh bells.

Elf (2003): Authenticity in a One-Size-Fits-All World

Will Ferrell’s portrayal of an overgrown elf searching for his place in New York City is not only comic gold but also a master class in authenticity, which all leaders can learn from. After all, 67% of C-suite executives and senior managers hide their social identities at work. 

Buddy’s unapologetic enthusiasm and unwavering self-identity amid the cynical big-city folk serve as a lesson for executives: stay true to your values and vision, even when the corporate world seems cold and unforgiving. 

As leaders, fostering an authentic work culture where every “elf” feels they can contribute in their unique way is key to building a productive, happy team.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): The Impact of Empathy

No Christmas movie list is complete without this classic. George Bailey’s discovery of life’s value emphasizes the power of empathy in leadership. Connecting with others, understanding their struggles, and appreciating their worth creates not just a tight-knit community but also a resilient organization. 

C-suite executives can draw from George’s experience to remember that the greatest asset to any enterprise is its people. As Clarence said, “No man is a failure who has friends.”

Take time to understand your team’s life outside the P&L statements—it might just be the key to unlocking their full potential.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993): Embracing Change and Innovation

This Tim Burton movie follows Jack Skellington’s quest to introduce Halloween Town to the concept of Christmas. Jack’s quirky and curious leadership style shines through early in the movie. His eagerness to embrace change serves as a reminder to executives that sometimes what your company needs is a fresh perspective or a new approach. 

The challenge is figuring out how to integrate new ideas without losing the essence of what made your company successful in the first place. Just be careful not to kidnap Santa in the process.

Home Alone (1990): Strategic Planning and the Value of Preparation

Kevin McCallister may just be a boy left behind during the holiday hustle, but his ingenious booby traps for unwelcome guests speak volumes about the value of strategic planning and the unexpected strength of an underdog. 

C-suite executives can take a page—hopefully not from a burglar’s playbook—and apply it to business planning. Foresight, strategy, and a well-thought-out plan can keep your company safe from proverbial market “wet bandits.”

A Christmas Carol (2009): Vision, Reflection, and Redemption

Charles Dickens’ age-old story, adapted into countless films (most recently in 2009), carries potent lessons in leadership, historical awareness, and facing the ghosts of one’s past decisions. Ebenezer Scrooge’s transformation from miser to model citizen is a narrative of reflection and redemption. 

C-suite executives can glean wisdom from Scrooge’s overnight enlightenment about the impact of their own actions and decisions. It highlights the importance of introspection and the need to sometimes reassess and change course for the betterment of all stakeholders. “Bah, Humbug!” indeed.

Trading Places (1983): Perspective, Equity, and Fair Management Practices

This ‘80s comedy classic delivers more than laughs; it provides a narrative on societal roles and the power dynamics within. When a wealthy broker and a down-and-out hustler trade places, we’re given a firsthand look at how position influences perspective. 

As a C-suite executive, it’s invaluable to step into the shoes of your employees to truly understand their challenges and perspectives. Equity, empathy, and fair management practices should be the cornerstones of your corporate culture, not just seasonal decorations.

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Leadership Lessons Can Be Found in the Most Unlikely of Places

Leadership wisdom isn’t exclusively squirreled away in MBAs, self-help tomes, industry shindigs, or mentors ready to impart knowledge over a cup of coffee. Sometimes the most insightful lessons pop up in the daily grind, often hidden in places we least expect—like holiday movies.

Remember that the spirit of leadership, much like the holiday season itself, is about bringing joy, creating value, and making a positive impact on those around you. 

We here at Stanton Chase wish you and your friends, family, and loved ones a festive end-of-year period. We hope 2024 brings you abundant opportunities to achieve all of your leadership goals and ambitions. 

Warm regards, 

Kristof Reynvoet
Global Chair of the Board 

About the Author

Kristof Reynvoet is a Partner at Stanton Chase Brussels and the Global Chair of the Board. Prior to joining the executive search industry, Kristof earned his stripes in top commercial positions both domestically and abroad, with a diverse career spanning the consumer goods, chemical, and finance industries. 

His leadership experience at Stanton Chase includes serving as Regional Vice President for EMEA and EMEA Practice Leader for the Industrial Practice Group. He is a trusted advisor for clients in the Industrial, Supply Chain, Logistics, and Transportation industries. 

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