Watching Santa at work, it would be easy to think that Leadership is all about having a plan and ensuring those around you deliver the plan, so what about when things don’t go to plan?
For a leader like Santa, who has such a vast organisation to run, mostly things do work to plan – children write their lists, the elves work as well-motivated teams to defined plans and targets and Santa ensures progress is measured and monitored, until…things change. Perhaps ‘junior’ changes his mind after sending his letter, perhaps Santa and the team are let down by external partners, the special gift runs out of stock before junior’s parents purchase it on Santa’s behalf!
Does Santa throw a strop and let his team down tools just because the plan has changed? No, Santa demonstrates flexibility and ensures his teams of elves take this new information into account and alter their plans to ensure the customer is looked after right to the end.
And then there are the times the organisation can’t follow a well-planned route, for example when no letter is sent at all, or Santa has mixed evidence on which list a child should go on! Here Santa show us another essential area of leadership, dealing with ambiguity – running an organisation and making decisions with incomplete information and lack of clarity around the facts. He makes the decisions with confidence on what information he has, and weaves this into his plans at the right stage.
So whilst plans and organisation are essential qualities to lead a high performing organisation, we can see this is not the whole story of leadership and being able to adapt and change direction to get the right end results is also of high importance.