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Dec-11-2010 13:16printcomments

Three Leadership Lessons from Rudolph the Red- Nosed Reindeer

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

(CHARLESTON, S.C.) - For many years, the story goes; Montgomery Ward department store in Chicago purchased and gave away coloring books as a promotional during the Christmas season. In 1939, company executives wanted to do something that would both reduce costs and be new and different. 

To help with the new project they turned to Robert L. May, a 34-year old Montgomery Ward copywriter who was known to dabble in children’s limericks and stories. His creation was a short story written in rhyming verse and differed from the version known today. The original Rudolph lived in the woods with his loving parents far from the North Pole.  

May’s story became an immediate success. Montgomery Ward gave away 2.4 million copies of the story in 1939 and by 1946, despite wartime paper shortages; over 6 million copies had been distributed. Faced with large medical bills because of his wife’s battle with cancer, May asked Montgomery Ward officials if he could have the copyright to Rudolph turned over to him. The company agreed and that same year the story was published commercially. 

May also asked his brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, to adapt his basic story idea to music. When Marks was done, one singer after another, including Bing Crosby, declined to record the song. Finally, in 1949, Gene Autry accepted and, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer shot to the top of the charts. Autry’s version is now the second best selling Christmas song of all time, surpassed only by Crosby’s White Christmas. 

From the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, come leadership lessons that are still applicable for today. Here are three leadership lessons that will serve you well regardless of the season. 

We all have natural gifts and abilities; embrace them. Rudolph was the object of scorn by the other reindeer who mistakenly thought that because he was different from the others, he didn’t have anything to contribute.  

We all come in different shapes, sizes, and with unique giftedness. It is not in the similarities that we stand out, but in our differences. The gifts and talents you bring to the table of your business or organization may not look like anything else in your company, but that is your gift. As you embrace and celebrate those gifts, others will also come to appreciate what you have to offer. 

We all face opposition; ignore it. Because his appearance was obviously different from others around him, Rudolph faced opposition. There will always be an element of people who oppose you not based on your appearance as in the story, but because you bring a different set of eyes to the problem, you bring a different attitude, and you bring an optimistic mindset to the challenges your company faces. 

When you make up your mind that what causes you to stand out is what will propel you to the top, others will be faced with a challenge: go there with you or be left behind. But regardless of the opposition you face, never surrender your giftedness to opposition. 

Your moment to shine will eventually come; welcome it. It is your faithfulness in the little things; day by day, that you prove yourself. Even though Rudolph faced opposition from the others, he didn’t allow their negativity to defeat him. In the moment of crisis when Santa needed a go-to Reindeer, Rudolph was ready. Armed with his natural giftedness and positive attitude, he navigated the team of fellow reindeer to a successful completion of the Christmas mission. 

Your moment of destiny will come one day and it will not always come in the manner in which you expected. Open your eyes to all the possibilities that your leadership can provide. As you show yourself faithful in the little things your big moment will come. 

This Christmas season, celebrate your gift as a leader, rise above your opposition, and stand ready to embrace your destiny. As you do, you will have a greater understanding of just how special the season can be. 

Doug Dickerson is the former editor of the Berkeley Independent newspaper in South Carolina and is currently the director of university relations at Charleston Southern University. Doug’s writing has been recognized by the South Carolina Press Association, having won awards for enterprise reporting, series of articles, and for humor column writing. Doug’s passion for communicating leadership principles and personal development is crystallized through his Management Moment column and leadership columns he writes. Read more of Doug’s columns on his blog at

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Lina June 8, 2012 7:54 am (Pacific time)

the great Santa Claus Funnies published by Dell bweeten 1942 and 1961.a0 I covered this title in The Golden Age of Comic Booksa0Podcast Episode 55 in 2007, but thought it would be fun to showcase those covers as we approach Christmas, 2010.a0

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