Managing Monday’s: Rudolph Was An Unlikely Leader


So what makes a great leader rise up in difficult or unlikely circumstances? Let’s take a look at one famous example of an unlikely Christmastime leader named Rudolph. So legendary was his rise from outcast to front-man, Johnny Marks penned a simple song to tell his story simply titled Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows.

Poor Rudolph was different than everyone else on his team. There are a variety of reasons for not fitting in which include:

  • Conflicts in personalities
  • Gender disparity
  • Ethnicity distinction
  • Age differences
  • Political stances
  • Pre-conceived notions

All of these things can make one stand out from the herd. And although the attributes may be inaccurate they can thwart relationships from materializing. In Rudolph’s circumstance he had a big red nose so he was physically dissimilar than the others, not much something he could hide.

All of the other reindeer
used to laugh and call him names.
They never let poor Rudolph
join in any reindeer games.

All of the other members of Rudolph’s team used to exclude him, laugh at him, and call him names because he was so different from everyone else. They disliked him so much because his nose was different that they never let poor Rudolph join in any of the team activities–the team shunned him. In Rudolph’s case, he let this disparity get him down. At first, he did not understand different is not necessarily a detriment. Being different allows you to look at things from an alternate perspective, it gives you strength where others have weakness, it helps to balance out the team making them more rounded.

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say:
“Rudolph with your nose so bright,
won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

There came a time when things started to get challenging for the world-traveling team. A fog rolled in the visibility for the team started to cloud over. If the outlook did not change and if someone did not step up to the plate soon, Christmas would be ruined. It was time for innovation! As everyone soon realized, Rudolph’s detriment turned out to be exactly the tool needed to get the job done. He was able to turn things around and he led the way on a jubilant trip around the globe. That night Rudolph brought his team out of the fog and successfully delivered toys across the world to millions of girls and boys. He was a hero!

Then all the reindeer loved him
as they shouted out with glee,
Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer,
you’ll go down in history!

Perseverance Prevails

In the end Rudolph prevailed. He accomplished something no one ever thought possible. When everyone else had given up, Rudolph kept the vision alive by staying focused and shinning a bright red light on the prize. His leadership rallied the troops and brought them through a tough time when it appeared to everyone there was no hope.

As we now know, Rudolph is the most famous reindeer yet he remains humble, as he knows it takes much hard work to keep his leading role, he knows to never give up and always remember it’s a team effort; not just one member can steal the show–it takes teamwork, Pulling Santa’s sleigh is a team effort and the reindeer must work as a team to succeed.

And let’s not forget about the leadership of Santa! It takes a true leader to recognize potential in people and know when to put the right player in the game. It takes a truly good captain at the helm to take the reins and steer the sleigh.

And as you know the rest will go down in history.

How are you dealing with disparities in the work place? What changes have you made to strengthen your team structure?


Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Jason Christensen

Jason Christensen is Sr.National Accounts Manager for Milwaukee Tools
He partners with top accounts for exceptional progress
Email | LinkedIn

Image Sources:


6 responses to “Managing Monday’s: Rudolph Was An Unlikely Leader

  1. Jason – l appreciate the style of this post. It is so interesting to find leadership fables in stories, life moments, and simple experiences that most everyone can relate to. Thanks for your contributions to L2L. I look forward to more of your posts! El


    • Thank you for your comment El! You are right about finding leadership lessons in everyday moments. Often right there in front of us the whole time.


  2. Pingback: Tweets that mention Managing Monday’s: Rudolph Was An Unlikely Leader « Linked 2 Leadership --·

  3. Jason,
    I too, enjoyed the style, but was left with an uncomfortable feeling (pardon the cynicism). Your six reasons for not fitting in all seem to fall into the category of “I was born with this problem” or “it’s the other guy’s fault”, and each one with a politically correct twist. While these may be occasionally true, my experience tells me that the most common reasons for not fitting in are performance-related (not pulling my weight, not doing what’s asked of me, whining about the challenges, etc.) If everyone did their part, concerns about ethnicity, gender, age, politics, et. al. would become much less prevalent. Sometimes I think we hide behind identity politics to prevent people from seeing the “real” us. What do you think?


  4. Pingback: uberVU - social comments·

  5. Ian,
    Although it is not listed, I do believe performance-related issues can also cause workplace disparity. Dependent on the industry and workplace environment certain groups of people are challenged more greatly to fit in. An example of this might be female sports broadcasters for an NFL game. They do their part, pull their weight, know more about the game than most people in general, but are they truly given the credit they deserve as a knowledgeable source of information by the fans? Instances like these are abound, no matter how hard they try some people just don’t fit into the group, unless they can find a niche, like Rudolph, where take their seeming detriment and turn it into a strength the entire team can build upon. As mentioned in the post, “different is not necessarily a detriment. Being different allows you to look at things from an alternate perspective, it gives you strength where others have weakness, it helps to balance out the team making them more rounded.” Thank you Ian, for your comment, performance-related issues, is definitely a good one to add to the list!


Please Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s