Five Factors that Make the BEST Stand Out Year After Year.

Since 1964, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” has stood out as America’s longest-running annual holiday TV special. Why? According to the USA Today’s Robert Bianco, there are five important factors that the best TV specials share in common.

Is it possible that these factors could teach us something about leadership as well?  Here are Bianco's five factors along with my thoughts on why I think they do:

  1. Music. It has to be memorable, with melodies and harmonies that elevate people. What kind of “music” and “rhythm” do we share with people at work? This is not to suggest that there is never tension or discord – great music requires all of the notes. But what is the overall tone? The cultural vibe is not easily hidden even from customers and clients.
  2. Message. The barrage of fear and duplicity in the news and in toxic work environments will numb us into compliance, but they aren’t sustainable or endearing. Only warmth, humor, and honesty will bring people back to FEELING again. Start by being more transparent.
  3. Magic. Bianco surmises that the best stand out because “the heart wants what it wants, and reason isn’t always part of the equation.” I agree. We have a tendency to wipe out subjectivity and creativity when we rely solely on objectives and rational thought. People want to be inspired. This is bigger than the stock price or latest quarterly report.  We need to give people a compelling future to look forward to – as we dream, imagine, and discover the possibilities together.
  4. Story. The days of learning by lecture are numbered. To engage people, we need to communicate in a meaningful, clear, and simple way. Story invites others to join us in the cause rather than dragging them along. It lowers barriers, and permeates into minds that may otherwise ignore the message entirely. More importantly, it creates space for people to see for themselves how they fit and the role they play in achieving organizational success. Story also demonstrates respect and confidence in others because they are given the opportunity to make their own conclusions on lessons learned.
  5. Timing. Listen. Pause. Breathe. Wisdom: knowing when the best answer is to simply be present without the need to respond.

“A show may not need all, but without four [of the five factors], it shouldn’t expect to be back for next year’s reindeer games,” concludes Bianco.  The best TV specials stand out year after year, but it isn't by accident.  They were intentional and purposeful in the pursuit of excellence by elevating, communicating, inviting, and engaging the audience to be part of the journey.

What do you think?

What would you add or subtract from this list when it comes to factors that make the best leaders stand out year after year?

Photo credit: graur razvan ionut /

Twitter feed is not available at the moment.