Common Purpose / 14 December 2023

Could Your Favourite Christmas Movie Characters Be Good Leaders In The Real World? We Found Out

Not to ruin them for you or anything…


Ah, December. A time of basking in the scents of mulled wine, seeing the world light up in flurries of glittering fairy lights, listening to Christmas carols about snow and feeling that deep sense of cosiness – no matter what part of the world you may be in, and, of course, setting aside generous chunks of time to watch as many good old fashioned Christmas movies as possible.

No matter which is your favourite (we are willing to include Die Hard fans here), there’s a certain magic to these films that can’t be replicated, and especially in any month that’s not December. Over the years of watching and re-watching these films, our favourite characters have taught us valuable lessons – ‘Don’t be so quick to judge!’ Exclaims The Grinch. ‘Keep calm and carry on,’ Home Alone's Kevin proves. But what you might not have considered is what the characters could also learn themselves – particularly if they want to be an effective role model and leader.

So with that in mind, we took a long hard look at some of the most popular Christmas movie characters of our time and realised there’s some crucial lessons they’d do well to learn in the realm of leadership. In turn, this gives us even more reason to watch them. Now that’s some productive Christmas spirit!

Read on for the key leadership lessons bound to give our favourite Christmas characters an even happier ending. 


Iris in The Holiday – break away from harmful mindsets

With a wardrobe of perfect skinny scarves and possibly the quaintest cottage in all of the Northern Hemisphere, there’s not much not to love about Iris Simkins of The Holiday fame. Played by the formidable Kate Winslet, our hearts break for her character as she continuously pursues Jasper, a man who has virtually no interest in anyone but himself. He leads her on. He breaks her heart numerous times. He even gets engaged to someone else without telling her. Yet still, she can’t help but hold out hope that one day, he’ll find his way back to her and they’ll live happily ever after.

It goes without saying that any good pal of Iris’ would’ve told her that the guy is bad news. Alas, sometimes people only hear what they want to hear. So when Iris goes above and beyond for Jasper, and he reciprocates by giving her short-lived attention, it becomes clear that the British writer has a chronic case of people-pleasing syndrome – and she can’t seem to break the mindset.

It’s here that we would like to step in. From a leadership perspective, it’s important to understand that in order to forge a positive, harmonious working culture, you need to have a mindset that is open enough, and courageous enough to push past your fears and inhibitions. Yes, it might feel scary to potentially move against a status quo you and your team have worked within for a long period of time, but if you have ascertained that change is required, a good leader will move through their own discomfort in order to drive it. As we later discover (spoiler alert ahead), Iris finally manages to break this harmful mindset and tells Jasper in a roundabout way to shove it. And she finds something so much better because of it!


Jamie in Love Actually – don’t be afraid to pursue conversations with purpose

Colin Firth, AKA Uncle Jamie in Love Actually gets a point from us when he actively makes the decision to pause and give himself time to process a break up in a stunning French villa after discovering his partner has been cheating on him with his brother. But his story quickly becomes frustrating, albeit hopelessly charming, when he falls in love with his housekeeper, Aurelia who tends to the property while he works on his book.

The language barrier is one thing, but the furtive glances and lack of follow-through despite a clear attraction between the two often has us yelling at them (or more accurately, our screens) to just get it together already.

Thankfully, they eventually do get it together after a bunch of back-and-forth, and a no doubt extortionately priced plane journey to Portugal on Christmas eve. But Jamie’s way of addressing something that scared him prior to this was not particularly effective. If we put Jamie into a leadership context, we can’t help but think what might happen if he needed to have a difficult, or challenging conversation with someone. Would he avoid it? His lack of communication with Aurelia (even when she herself made the first move by kissing him!) suggests he absolutely would.

But here’s the thing: All leaders and organizations should actively try to have more effective, purpose-driven conversations with their own employees, and those around them about real, complex issues that affect us all. Yes, they can be difficult. And often, it’s impossible to predict the outcome. But ultimately, these conversations will break down barriers and build bridges in our world today. Of course, we don’t expect these conversations to result in an engagement to the love of your life – but you get the principle! 


Buddy in Elf – continue having a learning mindset

To preface this, we want to reiterate that we are not criticising Buddy from Christmas favourite Elf in any way here. How could we possibly? Instead, we actually wanted to point out a leadership lesson he has already mastered: having a learning mindset.

This is a crucial element in leadership, because your mindset dominates your behaviour and outlook, and therefore how you interpret and respond to situations. If we are self-limiting in our beliefs, this will stifle the way we lead, impacting behaviour, decisions and actions – all of which will have an impact on those we are leading.

Buddy had lived his whole life with the understanding that the world around him was perfect as it was. But when he was given the opportunity to step outside of his comfort zone on the promise of learning about something different – even if it meant giving up his home comforts – he jumped into it with open arms. Quite literally. This is a learning mindset in action. Cheers for that one, Buddy. 

Regina George in Mean Girls – Inclusivity is critical

Did anyone at North Shore High School actually want to partake in Regina George’s annual performance of Jingle Bell Rock? Unconfirmed, but we do know that she never gave anyone else a choice in the matter (apart from her core girlfriends Gretchen and Karen, and in one very exceptional instance, Cady).

Hypothetically, the many American high school stereotypes that group together based on their commonalities at the infamous Mean Girls high school are not dissimilar to a collective of personalities in a team that works together in the real world. Leaders will be required to lead a group of people who have all different kinds of backgrounds, cultures, communities and skill sets, but if you bring these people together, you’ll often find their differences make a team all the more effective and impactful. A good leader will recognise this, they will champion diversity, and they will harness its value. Regina George, a glorified leader of her own girl group, clearly didn’t clock this. Suffice to say things didn’t turn out so well. If she were to do it all again, we suggest she adopts a mindset that appreciates the value in inclusivity, and that she takes action to bring this into fruition. After all, there was probably a Madonna-level singer at that school ready to belt out Jingle Bell Rock while a budding dancer choreographed a simple routine for more than four people (with their own talents to add) to execute on-stage. Now there’s a performance. 


Who we are. What we stand for.

Who we are

Stay connected with us

Follow us to learn more about who we are and what we do