Leading during the holiday season can feel as though you are swimming upstream, especially when we, as leaders, don’t hold our employees to “business as usual” behaviors. But you can’t afford to just go with the flow! And because you are human, don’t expect that you aren’t going to feel the pressure of the season with your own commitments and automatic worries about the holidays. Make sure you check in with yourself to make sure you are managing your emotions and do a reset. It’s your job to maintain the holiday spirit while ensure that goals are met.  

Here are a few tips to make sure you keep leading: 

Get Ahead of It: Plan to be Productive

If you want to make sure the holiday season doesn’t impact performance, you must plan how you are going to handle historical slowdowns and absenteeism and decide how you’re are going to handle it. The best plan of attack is to anticipate historical lag times and tackle them proactively. This is no time for self-deception or rationalizations. Don’t tell yourself that it will be different this year because you have a different staff or a more experienced team. Anyone can get hijacked by the holiday “should” and anxiety about time they create. Have a plan, with goals, expectations, individual contributions mapped out. You might even increase your communication to and status reporting from employees to make sure you stay on track.

Set Your Non-Negotiable Goals

If you don’t have a list of your absolutely must be done, you are more likely to make subjective decisions based on individual needs and agendas. Begin permissive and delaying business goals because employees’ personal agendas are being prioritized has far reaching consequences. By the end of the year, what absolutely has to be achieved?  Make sure you communicate this to employees so that you don’t end up doing all the work!  Follow up to make sure they are staying productive and on track. 

Don’t Over-Empathize

There is a tendency for managers and leaders to become more permissive during the holidays. Empathizing with an employee when they are emotional or exhausted does nothing for them or you. Your business relationships are different from friendships and you can’t respond to an employee that’s overwhelmed because they haven’t done their shopping the same way.  If your employees view you as a friend, they’re more likely to take a lax approach to workplace projects, because they aren’t worried about being held accountable.  judged negatively for not taking things seriously. You’ll also have a difficult time managing unproductive employees and reprimanding them if you’ve lost your position of authority.

Model the Pace

All or nothing thinking is automatic during the holiday season. It’s so easy for us to relax our boundaries and say yes so others don’t judge us as mean or accuse us of being the grinch. December isn’t playtime or time for every employee neurosis to take center stage.  Be firm, maintain your boundaries, and say no when necessary. Model the behavior you want from employees by maintaining the same pace and work ethic you perform with, during the rest of the year. If you catch the holiday fever and change your leadership behavior, everyone will follow suit.


Anne and Heather are organizational and leadership development experts at Caliber Leadership Systems, a boutique consulting firm specializing in dismantling of dysfunction in organizations.  They are dedicated to empowering individuals, leaders, and organizations to achieve their potential by leveraging their expertise in the neurobiology of human development combined with system thinking approach. They wear many hats – Consultants, Executive Coaches, Trainers, Speakers and Authors – adapting their expertise and solutions to meet the needs of their clients. They bring a unique depth and breadth of knowledge and experience that gives clients the benefit of all of our disciplines to help them achieve their goals.

As experts in human development and behavioral change, leadership and organizational transformation, interpersonal dynamics and the achievement of potential, Anne and Heather have worked with thousands of leaders and individuals from around the world, been featured in dozens of publications, spoken at professional conferences, and written several series of books on personality type and the brain based on the Striving Styles® and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.

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