I’ve partnered with my church, The Gateway Church, for a mini-series called Christmas At The Movies. In my blog posts, I will examine the leadership and personal development lessons movies can teach. The Gateway Church will examine the spiritual and life lessons you can take away from them.
It’s a great partnership and one that works well for this blog.
Today’s Reel Leadership Christmas At The Movies movie is the 1966 classic Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! It’s the story of the Grinch (voiced by Boris Karloff), a mean green creature, who hates Christmas and will stop at nothing to destroy the joy, hope, and love of the people of Whoville.
While watching Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, my wife and I discussed how we didn’t remember the movie being less than 30 minutes. It was, but it was still packed with great lessons. Let’s dive into the leadership lessons found in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
Quotes And Leadership Lessons From Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
1. It’s hard to understand the motivations of others:
The movie opens with the narrator discussing the Grinch and how he lived north of Whoville. There, he stewed and brewed with hatred for the town of joyful people.
No one knew why he was so angry and hateful. He just was.
When you look around your organization, you may desire to know the motivations of those you lead. Some are easy to tell. There’s Sally, who’s trying to help her husband make ends meet. There’s Bobby, who’s working two jobs to pay off college debt.
But then there’s Dan, Kathy, and Ginny. They come in, do their job, and leave. They don’t complain but don’t go far above their job duties.
You’ve tried to peg down their motivations, but they’re not evident like Bobby or Sally.
It’s okay not to know the motivations of those you employ. Sometimes, motivations will stay hidden.
2. Ponder the question:
The narrator pondered the question of why the Grinch hated Christmas and Whoville. One of his theories was that the Grinch’s heart was two sizes too small.
The Grinch didn’t have a lot of love to go around. He was bitter, mean, and angry.
All of this is because he lacked love.
That’s what the narrator pondered. And the narrator was right. The Grinch’s heart was small.
When we sit on a question, we can ponder the reasoning for situations around us. Why did the latest product fail to resonate with customers? How come our employees are unhappy? Do we need to hire a third shift?
Taking the time to think through these questions can lead you to the right answer. Sit on them. Ponder them. Let the answers come.
3. Great leaders bring their people together:
Every year, the people of Whoville would come together with excitement for Christmas. Their homes would be decorated. The town would be flush with lights and trees and garland.
It was an exciting time, and the people came together because of it. They wanted to be a part of the events happening.
Great leaders see what the mayor of Whoville saw: Their people need to get excited and come together to do great work. These leaders find what brings their people to life and give it to them.
This could be finding new ways to do their jobs (remote or hybrid, anyone?!?), allowing autonomy, or bringing in new technology such as AI tools to make their jobs more enjoyable.
While some of these things may make you think it will drive your people apart, it can bring them together. Hybrid or remote workforces better communication, autonomy gives your team members to think of new ways to collaborate, and AI tools such as Magai can be used in team settings to enhance creativity.
Find ways to excite and bring your people together.
4. Stop focusing on the problem:
The Grinch became more irritated over the years as he watched Whoville celebrate and have a great time. He heard the Who’s singing and cheering.
This went on for years — 53 years, in fact. Every year, he grew more and more hateful toward those people.
Why? The Grinch focused on what he hated. He focused on what he saw as the problem.
Yes, we have to look at the problem to solve the problem, but we don’t have to focus on the problem with an intensity that drives us insane. There’s an appropriate level of focus to have, and then there’s the dangerous level.
Beware of how much you focus on the problem. Too much, and you’ll wind up like the Grinch.
5. Singer (Thurl Ravenscroft):
I wouldn’t touch you with a 39 and a half foot pole.
In the classic song, You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch, the singer identifies the negative qualities of the Grinch. He’s a mean one, that’s for sure.
And then there’s the line that’s been seared into the minds of children around the world:
I wouldn’t touch you with a 39 and a half foot pole.
That’s the reaction people have toward the Grinch because of his attitude. No one wants to be around him. No one would even get close to him.
But that’s what happens to negative leaders, and people, as well. Your people don’t want to be around you if you’re a Debbie Downer. If all you ever do is complain, argue, or talk down to others, you will be avoided like the plague.
Your people will sing You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch and won’t want to touch you with a 39 and a half foot pole. They’ll keep their distance and you’ll wonder why.
6. Bad leaders lie:
Something happened as the Grinch was stealing the Christmas decorations from the homes of the Who’s. He was stuffing a Christmas tree, flush with ornaments, up the chimney. An ornament fell off. It rolled to the bedside of Cindy Lou Who (June Foray).
Cindy Lou Who was a child Who. She’d been sleeping when she heard the ornament clink upon her bed.
She got up, walked to where the tree was, and saw the Grinch dressed as Santa. She questioned what he was doing, and then he fibbed. He lied. He misled her.
It can be easy to tell a small fib or even an outright lie to our people. We think we’re covering for them. We’re making their lives easier. We’re protecting them.
What you’re really doing is hurting them. You’re eroding their trust. You’re making them question you. You’re leading them to somewhere you wouldn’t want to go.
Beware of telling lies to your team. It will destroy what you’ve built.
7. Our expectations can be wrong:
The Grinch expected wails and moaning when the Who’s discovered their Christmas goods were gone. He waited and waited and longed to hear those cries.
But he didn’t. He heard something else instead.
There were joyful songs. They were laughing. There was no weeping or gnashing of teeth.
Their joy was found with each other. In something bigger than themselves.
The Grinch’s expectations were wrong.
The same can be said for our expectations. We may have an idea of what can or could happen. But what really happens isn’t up to us.
We have to be okay with being wrong, with setting the wrong expectations. When we do, we can learn and grow…
As the Grinch finds out.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before… Maybe Christmas, (he thought) doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more.
This goes along with the previous thought of expectations being wrong, but I think it also takes it in another direction. The Grinch had all these thoughts of what Christmas was all about. It was the presents, the food, the decorations! He thought…
But he was wrong. It wasn’t about any of those things. Christmas was about a little bit more than that.
And leadership is about more than we think it is. It’s not about leading people, though it is. It’s not about a fat paycheck or the recognition that comes with the title.
No, no, no…
Maybe leadership, perhaps… means a little bit more!
Leadership is about the lives of the people. It’s about making their lives better. It’s about finding your calling or purpose. It’s about life change.
9. Bad leaders can turn around:
No one could have expected the life change the Grinch would experience on that Christmas day. But he did.
His heart grew three sizes on that Christmas day. He no longer had a small heart. A wicked heart. A heart that hated others.
No, he turned his life around. He learned how to love and care for others.
Wow! What a turnaround the Grinch experienced, huh? I believe the same can be true for the leaders of organizations. Those leaders that have gone rogue, gone bad.
You can turn your career and life around if you’re one of those leaders. You can find a love for the people you lead.
In doing so, you’ll no longer be the Grinch leader. You’ll be a loving leader.