Thursday, November 18, 2010
With the holidays quickly approaching I have begun to think about and look forward to all the elements of the Christmas season; the lights, the tree, spending time with family, the food, and of course...Santa! Santa Claus is a figure that is a part of many people's childhood. Going to the local church or mall and sitting on Santa's lap is a holiday tradition that many have experienced. Santa is clearly prevalent in our society, but is he a leader? Let's take a closer look.
One way of determining whether or not Santa is a leader is by looking at what type of power he holds, if any. It could be argued that Santa has legitimate power as described in Power, Influence, and Influence Tactics by Hughes et al. Essentially the North Pole operates as a toy manufacturing and delivery organization. Santa's organizational role would be equivalent to CEO. He is the decision maker, he is in charge of all the elves and no one has the power to overrule Santa (except maybe Mrs. Clause but let's not go there). Hughes points out that in terms of legitimate power, the leader only maintains authority as long as he "occupies that position and operates within proper bounds of that role" (Hughes et al 1993). My absolute favorite Christmas movie is the Disney classic The Santa Clause. In this movie, the previous Santa stopped being Santa when Tim Allen's character, Scott Calvin, scared him which caused him to fall off his roof. At the request of his son Scott put on Santa's suit and by order of the Santa Clause he then immediately assumed the role of Santa. So, we can see that prior to assuming this role Scott had no power over the elves and the children that believed in Santa. It was only when he took this position that he gained legitimate power.
It could also be argued that Santa holds reward power. To review, reward power "involves the potential to influence others due to control over desired resources" (Hughes et al 1993). Obviously, Santa has the power to either leave you that present that you've been dreaming of and looking forward to for weeks, or he can leave you a big old lump of coal. When I was a kid and I started acting up all it took was my mom uttering the words "Santa's watching" to quickly get me back in line. Clearly Santa has control over the resources and this gives him power.
Although it is clear that according to Hughes et al Santa is a leader, I pose the following question:
Is Santa still a leader even though he is a fictional character?
Hughes, Richard L, Rovert C. Ginnett, and Gordon J. Curphy, "Power, Influence, and Influence Tactics," from Leadership: Enhancing the Lessons of Experience, Richard D. Irwin, Inc. 1993.