Leadership Lessons from Your Favorite Holiday Movies

During this holiday season, friends and family gather together to enjoy the warmth of kith and kin, sharing stories of Christmases past and reliving highlights of 2016. From sipping eggnog and warming up by a cozy fire to building that perfect snowman, everyone has a favorite holiday activity they share with loved ones. But, there’s one holiday tradition you can enjoy on your laptop at the airport or on the big screen at your relatives’ house—watching your favorite holiday movies. Since you may spend hours partaking in this tradition during the holiday break, you might as well take in a few leadership pointers from Christmas days of yore. So before you light that yule log and gather ‘round your loved ones, check out these leadership lessons from beloved Christmas movies.

A Christmas Story

With its widespread following, it’s nearly impossible to avoid this Christmas favorite from 1983. In fact, some of the quotes from this beloved film have made it into our everyday vernacular, like  Old Man Parker’s language lesson, “Fra-gee-lay. It must be Italian.” Or better yet, Santa’s sound advice, “You’ll shoot your eye out.” This gem of a flick is chock full of great quotes, but the best leadership advice one can extract from “A Christmas Story” is centered around the main plot—the boy’s never-yielding desire for a Daisy Red Ryder BB gun. Regardless of pendants around Ralphie warning against it, he pressed on and pursued his dream—even when he actually did hurt himself.

In life, we are constantly faced with naysayers who either don’t believe in our dreams or who point out how you may fail. But like Ralphie, you need to be true to yourself and focus on the end goal. Sure, you may get hit in the eye a time or two, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting out there and trying again.

It’s A Wonderful Life

Though one of the heaviest Christmas movies you may watch this season, this Jimmy Stewart classic film has inspired young and old since its release in 1946. The film follows the story of Jimmy Stewart’s character George Bailey as he navigates the struggles of owning and operating a small savings and loan, while trying to provide for his wife and children. While facing utter failure and disappointment, he experienced a life-altering moment when an angel showed him what life would be like if he were never born. Through the struggle, Bailey realized how beautiful life really is and how blessed he truly is.

Throughout your career, you will experience hardships and struggles. You may feel inadequate and barely be able to keep your head above water, but it is in those times when you have the opportunity to step back, breathe, and realize all the many blessings you truly have. As a leader, it is your job to help your employees have the same epiphany. It’s during the darkest times that camaraderie and thankfulness go a long way in building morale.


This feel-good, family comedy is one of the best Christmas movies of the early 2000s. Some of the leadership gems can be overshadowed by the quirky, fun-loving main character Buddy the Elf, played by comedian Will Ferrell. The storyline follows Buddy’s journey through the realization that he in fact is not an elf, but a human raised by elves. This realization leads Buddy to visit New York City in search of his biological father, who to Buddy’s disbelief, is on Santa’s naughty list. Throughout the movie, Buddy deals with many setbacks while trying to reconnect with his father and trying to spread Christmas cheer “by singing loud for all to hear.” But, the leadership gem we’re extracting from Elf isn’t in the character Buddy, but his father Walter.

In the beginning, Walter was a stern business man who cut corners to save a buck, constantly chose work over family, and avoided being vulnerable to those who loved him. In the end, we see his drastic change to choose what’s right over what’s best for business. At the office, you may be faced with decisions to do the ethical thing or do what will make your company the most money. Learn from Walter’s mistakes—the ethical choice always pays off in the long run.

Did we leave any of your favorite Christmas movies off the list? What leadership lessons have you learned from your beloved holiday flics? Let us know in the comments section below!

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