Leadership in the Movies – Elf Part 2

Who do you ‘show up’ as in your work environment?

Some of the most iconic lines from Elf, the 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell, happen along Buddy’s journey from the North Pole to New York City. He says goodbye to Mr. Narwhal, traverses Candy Cane Land and travels through the wooded forest.

While walking in the forest, he approaches the raccoon. And, I’m sure you can hear it now – Buddy says, “Does someone need a hug,” right before the raccoon lunges toward his face!

  • Think of a time in your work context where you were Buddy the Elf. Maybe you were trying to spread positivity and were challenged by a naysayer.
  • Now, think of a time in your context where you were the raccoon! Sometimes it hard to maintain positivity.
  • Consider the implications that your mindset has on others in your context. How might you better your work environment in the coming year?

Does a positive mindset impact your work?

Fast forward a few scenes in the movie, Buddy starts at his new job at Gimbel’s. Gimbel’s is the classic 1990s department toy store.

Keep in mind that Buddy the Elf is not necessarily always the model employee. But we do have a few examples of when he proved to be a helpful illustration.

What disposition do you bring to your work?

  • Buddy shares, “I like smiling. Smiling is my favorite.”
  • To which his supervisor, the Gimbel’s Manager (played by Faizon Love) proclaims, “No, make work your favorite. Working is your favorite.”

This exchange is a great reminder of the contrast between posture and position. In Master of None: How a Jack-of-All-Trades Can Still Reach the Top (2020), the author speaks to this paradox, “perhaps the better question is what’s important to you: furthering your position or strengthening your posture?”

  • What is your priority in the workplace?
  • Are you all about productivity and efficiency?
  • Do you see the value of cultivating a positive culture?
  • Consider the impact a positive culture (with engaged employees) may bring to your organization.

How might you transform your organization by using your strengths?

Buddy’s first job in Santa’s Workshop certainly wasn’t a good fit for his strengths (Make sure to check out Part 1 to read more). But, at Gimbel’s, Buddy took it upon himself to transform – literally – the environment. Pairing his holiday cheer with his crafty skills and strengths, he transformed the store into a winter wonderland one night. He filled the space with buildings made of Legos, a ‘Welcome Santa’ Lite Brite, and created snow patches from the department store pillows. (Again, not everything within the analogy ‘works’ for the real world – but you get the point!)

Using his strengths, Buddy transformed the work environment both physically with his craftsmanship and culturally by promoting a sense of warmth and compassion. Buddy was brave enough to be himself and bring his best self to Gimbel’s.

  • How might you transform your organization?
  • Acting as your bravest self, what action might you take with your work context?

What about your organization?