10 December 2023

What is your festive holiday leadership style?

Is your leadership style impacting your people’s ability to take a real break and recharge?

What is your festive holiday leadership style?

The festive season is a time of mixed human behaviours at work: some people prepare well ahead of time so they can enjoy a brief, yet much-needed, break from work; while others race out of the office to socialise and celebrate at as many festive events as possible. Some people are filled with festive spirit and encourage their colleagues with decorations, parties and competitions, while others prefer to work quietly until the office closes.

The way in which you approach the festive season sets the tone for everyone in your team. How much of these leadership styles do you recognise in your own festive holiday behaviour or those of your fellow leaders?

The Not-So-Merry Martyr

The holiday martyr is always busy and likes to make sure that others know this. They take even a short break like Christmas reluctantly, being sure that they really don’t have the time and telling others that they’ll be keeping an eye on things. They’re far too busy to attend parties, cake competitions or office decorating activities – they believe that if they leave their desk as well, the company will fall apart.

While they’re away, they dip in and out of work, answering some emails and taking some calls. Work is never very far away from their thoughts. Once back at work, they let people know how much they ended up having to do while they were away.

The Holiday Snowstorm

This person is also always busy. They’re keen to make sure that all the ends are tied up before they go away and so they work twice as hard as normal before they leave. They enjoy the buzz of a festive atmosphere at work but will only join in for a few minutes as there is so much to do.

While they’re away, they often feel so burnt out that they end up getting ill or are just too tired to really enjoy the break. Once back at work, they again work frantically hard to catch up with what they missed while they were away.

The Seasonal Snoozer

The seasonal snoozer makes almost no preparations at work for their holiday. They’re more than happy to attend any office events or activities as long as they don’t have to organise them. They may leave some notes for members of the team but seem to think that most things can wait or that the team will just get on with things (if they aren’t taking a break), without needing direction.

While they’re away, they have a great time and don’t think of work, attending a multitude of lunches, dinners, and parties and/or cosying up on the sofa.

Once back at work, they find that nothing has progressed or that things submitted for approval before the holidays haven’t been done in the way they would like – and they’re surprised that this has happened.

The Festive Holiday Guru

Even though the holiday guru has plenty on their plate, in the lead up to their holiday they prioritise what to do before they leave (including participation in Christmas fun), what needs to be done while they’re away and briefs their team. They make it clear which situations warrant an emergency where they should be contacted and how.

They have a great holiday, relaxing and re-charging their batteries.

Once back at work, fully refreshed, they have a de-brief from their team, thank them for what they’ve done and get back into their routine.

What do these leadership styles tell the teams around them?

If you’re led by a No-So-Merry Martyr, you may dread them being away as it’s hard to predict what they will and won’t get involved in, and you may feel that you’re not really trusted to get on with things while they’re away. Also, if they do work while they’re on holiday, do they expect that of you too?

If your boss is a Holiday Snowstorm, you may wonder why they even bother taking a break as it doesn’t seem to do them any good. Seeing the effect of the Snowstorm may put you off having more than a few days off at a time (or taking your laptop home with you) as you don’t want to come back to a pile of work like they do.

Being led by a Seasonal Snoozer may cause you to resent them going off without briefing you about what you may need to deal with. If they don’t feel any responsibility for leaving things properly covered while they’re on holiday, why should you?

If you’re led by a Festive Holiday Guru, you feel reassured that having a break is fine and that you’re not expected to work while you’re away. Your colleagues support you and your work while you’re on holiday in the same way that you support your leaders.

So, how can you become the holiday guru?

  • Before your holiday: Prioritise and delegate
  • During your holiday: Disconnect and refresh
  • After your holiday: Reconnect and resume

Holidays are an essential part of your well-being and of the well-being of your team. If you’re going to be at your best as a leader, you need to take holidays and to disconnect from work regularly… and through your example, encourage your team to do the same!

Written by Katrina Strathearn


You are using an outdated browser which can not show modern web content.

We suggest you download Chrome or Firefox.