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Halloween = Leadership? Trick or Treat?

By Chuck Cusumano and Jillian Broaddus

Halloween may look a bit different this year. There are talks of delivering neighborhood candy via metal chutes or zip lines, festivals have been canceled around the country, and many schools will remain virtual come October 31st. However, whether celebrating during a global pandemic or not, the spirit of Halloween will surely live on and – with it – valuable lessons in life and leadership that can be learned from it!

How could Halloween not survive after a history of more than 1,500 years? The origins of the holiday’s history date back to the fifth century, when the Celts lit bonfires and wore costumes as part of a celebration to ward off ghosts, known as Samhain. Three hundred years later, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as a time to honor all saints, with the night before it becoming widely known as “All Hallows Eve.” Over time, this celebration was condensed into a single night filled with jack-o-lanterns, trick-or-treating, and haunted houses. And if you are from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, or Michigan you will be very familiar with the night before Halloween called Mischief Night .

However, Halloween – at its core – is about more than rotting pumpkins, endlessly ringing doorbells, and pillow cases full of candy corn. Ultimately, it is the holiday perhaps most correlated to creativity, authenticity, and a wide sense of community.

In fact, it all ties back to leadership. Everything we write about, somehow seems to tie back to leadership. Don’t believe us? Think about this …

  • Halloween is all about the theme of INTEGRITY, and so is leadership. Or, truthfully, it’s all about the absence of integrity: Halloween is the one night per year where we can pretend to be something we’re not. We can dress up, act outrageously, and live under the identity of someone – or something – else entirely! However, when you wake up on November 1st, do you remove your mask? Or, when you face the mirror, do you find yourself still in costume, living and leading a life of inauthenticity? Halloween is a time to face who we truly are, beneath the face paint or witch hat. Ask yourself: what masks am I wearing every other day of the year?

  • Halloween breeds COMMUNITY, as should leadership. Halloween may not be the first holiday that comes to mind when you think about igniting a community; the Christmas spirit or Thanksgiving gatherings may take the cake. However, consider the magic that comes on a traditional Halloween night: it’s a night to meet your neighbors who you share a community with. It’s a night focused on fun, laughter, tricks, and treats. It’s a night of gatherings, games, and conversation. It’s a night of community, and a great reminder of how critical community is – whether with our next-door neighbors or our colleagues!

  • Halloween incites CREATIVITY, as should leadership. Halloween is all about creativity – from deciding what to be, to determining how to be it. From DIY costumes fastened together with cardboard and duct tape to home decorations that show off your family’s unique taste in “fright,” creativity is highlighted on Halloween unlike any other night. As a leader, are you encouraging your people to explore this level of creativity on a daily basis, in ordinary tasks? With creativity comes enjoyment, problem solving, and engagement, so why not incorporate the air of Halloween into your everyday workplace?

So, remember: take off the mask so you can be authentic, build community to increase engagement within your organization, and encourage creativity to increase performance and productivity. If you can do this you will be offering treats, not tricks, to your coworkers - and anyone who thought Halloween and leadership didn't go hand-in-hand - on a daily basis!

Happy Halloween!

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