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

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 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 gifts. 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 different from others around him, Rudolph faced opposition. There will always be an element of people who will oppose you not based on your appearance as in the story, but because you have a different perspective, you have a different attitude, and you bring an optimistic mindset to the challenges your company faces.

When you embrace that which causes you to stand out you are on your way to the top. Others can ridicule you or join you but the choice is theirs. Regardless of the opposition you face, never surrender your uniqueness to any opposition.

Your moment to shine will eventually come; welcome it.

It is your daily faithfulness in the little things 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 may not happen the way you expected. Open your eyes to all the possibilities that your leadership can provide. As you remain faithful 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.


© 2013 Doug Dickerson

* This column was originally written last year and is back by popular request.


About dougdickerson

I am Certified Leadership Trainer, author, columnist, and speaker. Husband to Alicia, father to Katelyn and Kara, and "Pop" to terrific grandson Tyson. I am an avid photographer, love the outdoors, and like to travel. I'm passionate about sharing my leadership insights and helping people reach their full potential.
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4 Responses to Three Leadership Lessons from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

  1. BRAVO! Great read. Thank you.


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