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What your Christmas tree says about your leadership style

Christmas tree family decorating holiday celebration

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Thanks to the women’s suffrage movement and their demands for equal work for women, I was at home last week while Margaret was slaving away at the university.

Because she’s only in her 11th year at the university, she has to work until Christmas Eve. To make matters worse, Margaret was worried – as she usually is when we’re going to put up the Christmas tree.

Last year, I cut down one of the blue spruce trees in the front yard and brought it into the house. This year, I promised we could buy one.

However, on this particular morning as I walked the dog and pondered the prices for fresh designer Christmas trees – $50 to $200 – I spotted a tree growing under the power lines.

You can imagine what went through my mind: $50 divided by 20 days is $2.50 per day for a Christmas tree that we will ultimately throw out. It doesn’t make sense!

So I returned to the house and put on Gerald Barron’s red jacket. God rest his soul. Gerald, Margaret’s father, passed away just two years ago and we all miss him dearly. However, Gerald didn’t die of electrical shock and I was hoping his red jacket would bring me luck.

I grabbed the saw given me in my first year of marriage to Margaret 25 years ago and an axe I won at a charity auction and headed behind my neighbour’s house onto the powerline. I quickly chopped down the tree before anyone else could, hoping it wouldn’t touch the lines and kill me, and then sawed off some branches and hauled it home.

Because the tree was subject to the electrical forces of the powerline for approximately 15 years (based on the tree rings), the branches were growing in a manner I’ve rarely seen, even on Charlie Brown trees. One side of the tree had no branches while the other had abominations of growths of different lengths.

When Margaret came home after her long day of work, she almost cried. In anger, she shouted at me: “That is the worst Christmas tree ever!

That came as a shock because I know honestly that I’ve found some pretty ugly trees in the past.

But truth be told, I figured if Margaret could put up with some of the stupid stuff I had done during the year, like shaving my head bald (yes, she was mad about that, but I knew it would grow back), some of the crockpot meals I threw together, my messiness, wrinkles, growing belly and overall lack of hygiene, she would get over the Christmas tree. So I handed her the garden snips and asked her to make it pretty.

I’m lucky to still be married to Margaret!

But what does a Christmas tree say about your leadership style?

As a business coach, I use a psychometric assessment called DISC to help understand my clients and to help them communicate better with their team. The assessment was designed by William Marston. Marston was pretty smart and fascinated with the truth. In fact, he developed the lie detector, wrote a bunch of books and developed the comic Wonder Woman, featuring a character who has the lasso of truth.

When it came to the DISC assessment, Marston figured there were four primary types of leaders. I’ve identified the four types by their Christmas trees:

The dominant leader

These are the bold, brash leaders; they want to be in control. They take action and get results.

If this is your leadership style, you either pulled a Christmas tree out of a box and put it up because Christmas doesn’t happen without a tree and darn it, you just happen to have a tree and there better not be any complaining about it.

Either that or you have one of those trees that are all balls and no needles, because hey, you want to make a statement about COVID-19.

The influencer

The influencer leader is creative and wants to have a party. The tree will be unique and covered in something memorable.

Trees signify a party and what’s Christmas without a big old staff party. You want everyone to remember you and this Christmas, but especially you, and you want the season to be fun. Who cares if any work gets done: let’s decorate some more with those newest lights of many colours.

The steady leader

This leader has a big traditional Christmas tree with lots of reds and whites. They may have bought the designer tree because it makes Christmas look perfect. This leader has put lots of effort into making the tree special. It wasn’t just thrown up like the two previous leaders, who are doing it because they have to or to get the party started.

The steady leader wants everyone to feel welcome and warm. They even have some thoughtful Christmas gifts under the tree that are perfect for each person on the team.

The conscientious leader

Here we have someone who might forget about Christmas because they’re stuck in their office working through the details of the previous year. Of course, if their team presses them, they will pull out the plastic tree that has a warranty. A real tree might be too risky.

These leaders don’t get too excited and they would just as well have someone else take over Christmas for them. If they can show up late and leave early without talking to many people, Christmas would suit them fine.

More advice on running your business

Don’t expect these leaders to be standing in front of the Christmas tree and making a big speech. Christmas and Christmas trees should be toned down!

What type of leader are you?

Your Christmas tree says a lot about you. As for me, Christmas will be over in a few weeks and, when I take down the tree, I will be thinking about you and the beautiful trees in your office or home windows.

I won’t be jealous or envious, but I will take that $50 I saved and head over to the liquor store for a bottle of nice $9 bottle red wine. I will share the wine with Margaret, who wanted the perfect Christmas tree, and hopefully, she will then appreciate the tree a little more.

This year was like that tree – not perfect, but it will do until 2022.

Dave Fuller, MBA, is an award-winning business coach and a partner at Pivotleader Inc. Need help with your tree or your business? Email dave@pivotleader.com. For interview requests, click here.


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