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Gut Check: Are You A Leadership Misfit?

14-12-15 Hermey The Misfit Elf

The holiday season is in full gear and it’s a great time to watch classic Christmas specials.

This year, one of the best, Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

The show first aired on December 6th, 1964 and tells the story of the beloved reindeer Rudolph. What’s not to love? Stop motion animation, catchy tunes. It’s one of my favorites.

The character that always intrigued me was Hermey, the elf who wants to be a Dentist rather than make toys like all the other elves at the North Pole. His dream creates a real tension between him and the boss elf.

At one point, Hermey realizes he’s a misfit, and decides he must leave.

This is where Hermey’s story has an important lesson for many leaders.

Over the years, I’ve worked with many leaders who are misfits within their organizations. They aren’t aligned with the company’s values. They may find themselves in conflict with the strategic direction of the company. Or they just don’t seem to fit in to the way things operate day-to-day. In the worst cases, I have found that many of them aren’t respected and eventually become irrelevant in the eyes of fellow employees.

What I’ve also found is that the storyline for misfit leaders usually ends in one of two ways. They either end up being exited from their organization, or they eventually see the light, like Hermey did, and decide to leave.

[Tweet “Hire misfit leaders to run against the grain when trying to change your organization or its culture”]

The sad thing with many of these stories is that misfits can actually bring value to an organization. If you are trying to transform your company and its culture, it can be valuable to bring in leaders who are misfits and run against the grain of the status quo. In these situations, misfits can actually represent the desired culture of the future. These misfits set the tone for others to follow.

But if you are not one of those leaders and haven’t been brought in to lead change, then you need to pause and ask yourself – what am I doing here?

Chances are you aren’t happy. Staying in your role because you need a paycheck, or because you don’t want to lose whatever perks you may have, aren’t good enough reasons to stay. I’ve seen some misfit leaders know they don’t fit, are miserable in their jobs but choose to wait it out, hoping that the organization terminates them so they can get severance. As I see it, that’s not real leadership.

So if you are a misfit in your organization, and you aren’t adding any real value as a leader, then go find yourself a place that better aligns with how you want to lead. You’ll be happier and you’ll be taking personal accountability for your leadership role.

This week’s leadership gut check comes via Hermey the elf and asks: Are you a leadership misfit?

Join the conversation @VinceMolinaro

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About the Author

Vince Molinaro is a speaker, consultant, executive at Lee Hecht Harrison, and author of the New York Times bestseller The Leadership Contract now in its third edition.

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