One of my favourite Christmas television specials is the classic Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer narrated by the late Burl Ives. I love the story, I love the characters, and I particularly admire the qualities of the lead characters Rudolph and Hermey the elf.
Why do I adore the characters, and what does this Christmas television classic have to do with leadership?
Well, both Rudolph and Hermey are different and do not fit in. They are misfit leaders.
Rudolph, because of his red nose will never become one of the members of Santa’s reindeer team. Hermey detests being an elf and spending his days making toys. He wants to become a dentist. They call themselves a couple of misfits as they do not fit in among their peers and do not meet the expectations of their parents and elders.
As a result, they are isolated, shunned, and not valued for their strengths and what they can bring to their community. They eventually leave and strike out in search of a place where they will be accepted and valued. Several obstacles confronted them on their journey, but when placed under trying circumstances, they demonstrate persistence, courage, and determination as they venture further from their home.
What begins to happen is that Rudolph and Hermey become more confident as they discover strengths that many discounted at home. These strengths allow them to take charge of situations, to overcome obstacles, and to lead. Rudolph and Hermey begin to believe in themselves and gain confidence.
A couple of misfits become leaders and are eventually called upon by the same people who shunned them to assume leadership roles. Rudolph, with his red nose, leads Santa’s sled on a stormy Christmas Eve, and Hermey prevents the Abominable Snow Monster from attacking Rudolph and others by using his dentistry skills. The Snow Monster is just upset over a sore tooth; it turns out. Rudolph and Hermey return home as heroes.
The story of Rudolph and Hermey is fictional, yet their journeys to leadership have great significance. Many of us have been in similar situations where we have not “fit in,” and are viewed by others – perhaps even by ourselves – as misfits that do not have the capabilities to lead.
As Rudolph and Hermey show us, however, misfits have much to offer. They have to decide to lead. Leaders emerge when they:
1. Discover their strengths, abilities, and passions and use them.
2. Believe in themselves and their unique attributes and embrace the challenges and obstacles they are confronted with.
3. Accept the fact that they can be a leader and that they can influence others.
4. Choose to lead with conviction, determination, and authenticity.
Rudolph and Hermey were different, but they stepped out and stepped up to lead. They did not disqualify themselves from leading.
If you see yourself as a Rudolph or Hermey, or if you have someone in your organization like them, take heart. Being a misfit is more than okay, especially when they step up to lead positively. In such cases, the misfit will probably turn out to be a key contributor and influencer in your organization.
Wishing all readers a very Merry Christmas