Leadership Articles: TALKING LEADERSHIP


A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
December 2014   |   By Dan Gaynor

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Ralphie and the Strategic Approach

Regular readers will know that each December I look to a classic Christmas movie to inspire a seasonal instalment. Past articles have featured, It's a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer to name just three. This year I turn my attention to a more modern day classic, A Christmas Story.

The movie tells the story of Ralphie Parker, a nine year old boy in pursuit of a Red Rider Carbine Action 200-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. Its a favourite in the Gaynor household. So where's the link to leadership? We're going to use this movie to illustrate a strategic approach to achievement.

All good strategy starts with a clear objective. Ralph has one, he wants that air rifle under the tree on Christmas morning.

Next he must assess his current situation. Young Ralphie does this well. He knows he has one big obstacle to overcome - his mother is concerned about safety. Responding to his varied suggestions that he'd like the gun, she repeatedly tells him, "No, you'll shoot your eye out."

With an understanding of his objective and his situation, he needs to formulate strategy. For me strategy has often been overcomplicated. Strategy is really nothing more that considering options and determining how best to get to the objective. Ralph develops one clear strategy – he will develop a promotional plan that is so convincing that it will overcome the most vigorous objections and convince everyone of the rightness of his request.

The final step is to develop tactics (the action steps that carry out the strategy.) For Ralphie, as is most often the case, some of these are planned and at least one is opportunistic. Ralphie inserts an advertisement for the air rifle into the pages of his mother's Life magazine and places it carefully on her pillow, believing she will open the magazine to the inserted ad and be convinced to support his Christmas request. His visit to Santa reveals another tactic, one he almost messes up when he gets nervous and his mind goes blank! But he recovers, climbs back up the slide and tells the department store Santa that he wants the air rifle. Santa's response, "You'll shoot your eye out."

Everyone who works strategically will encounter obstacles and setbacks, these are the situations when energy and determination are called for, Ralph certainly demonstrates these. Oh that we grown up leaders would pursue our objectives with the energy and determination of a nine year old boy in pursuit of an air rifle!

On the opportunistic side, Ralph's teacher asks her students to write a Christmas theme. Aha! What a promotional opportunity, it must be destiny. He'll write such a compelling theme that his teacher will be sure to come to his aid.

Finally, working strategically, particularly when the objective is challenging, requires hope and optimism. Ralphie never gives up and just when all seems lost and he has opened what he believes was every present under the tree, his dad draws his attention to a large package tucked inconspicuously behind a piece of furniture. As you might have guessed, Ralph receives his prize and his Christmas becomes one of his most memorable.

Merry Christmas to all

Dan Gaynor

Discussion Questions:

So how are you approaching the leadership of your team? Are you working strategically? Do you have a clear challenging objective you are pursuing? Have you assessed your situation and developed a thoughtful strategy? Do you have tactics you are executing with energy? Do you keep moving forward even when it seems you meet with tough obstacles and setbacks? These are the steps that lead you too, to the prize. Merry Christmas to all.

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A Feature Article from Gaynor Consulting Inc.
December 2014   |   By Dan Gaynor


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Join our blog Talking Leadership here to share it with other readers.


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Fearless Humility, August 2015

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Confront or Avoid?, Apr. 2015

The Heart of Accountability, Mar. 2015

Powerful Ambition, Feb. 2015

Inspiring Possibilities, Jan. 2015

Ralphie and the Strategic Approach, Dec. 2014

Disagree Well, Nov. 2014

Culture and People, Oct. 2014


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