Top Menu

It’s a Wonderful Life Leadership Lesson

If you haven’t seen It’s a Wonderful Life, stop what you’re doing right now and go watch it. Then call your parents and ask them why they omitted this crucial piece of awesomeness from your upbringing.

I watch it every year and, if the other members of my family are to be believed, I always tear up a bit when…
(I guess I still need to say this, even though you‘ve had your entire life to get around to watching this movie: Spoiler Alert!)
…Clarence gets his wings at the end of the movie.

This is one of the most quotable movies in cinematic history and I usually say the lines as they occur right along with the characters.
“I wish I had a million dollars. Hot dog!”
“George Bailey, I’ll love you ’til the day I die.”
“What do you want, Mary? You want the moon? Just say the word and I’ll throw a lasso around it and pull it down.”

And those are just a few off the top of my head. I know, I know. I’m not the guy you want to watch this movie with.

But there is one part of the movie I can hardly stand to watch. It’s not when George is contemplating his jump off the bridge. It’s not when he finds out what it would be like if he hadn’t been born. It’s when Uncle Billy loses the $8,000 deposit. Think of that amount as around $80,000 today, adjusted for inflation.

For years, I blamed Uncle Billy for his incompetence. George did, too. After looking for the money all day long with Uncle Billy, an exasperated George finally grabs Uncle Billy by the lapels and yells, “One of us is going to jail! Well, it’s not going to be me!”

I find it interesting, though, that just a bit later, George takes ownership of the error when he’s asking Mr. Potter for a loan. When Mr. Potter asks George if there is a discrepancy in the books, he replies, “There’s nothing wrong with the books. I’ve just misplaced eight thousand dollars. I can’t find it anywhere.”

Good for you, George. Real leaders know that the buck stops with them. Ultimately, leaders are responsible for what happens in their organizations.

For years, I thought George taking ownership of the problem was a noble thing to do, but the truth is that it really was George’s fault. Uncle Billy had been suffering from memory loss for years. An alert leader might have recognized that it may not be in the best interest of the company to have Uncle Billy handling large sums of money. Maybe they could have found another position for Uncle Billy that allowed him his dignity, while making sure the security of the Bailey Brothers Building and Loan was intact.

That’s all easy to see when we’re watching a movie. The real trick is to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of your team members in real life on a daily basis. Good leaders empower their team members to succeed in their jobs by making sure they are fit for their positions and well trained to carry out their responsibilities.

So here’s hoping you have a wonderful holiday season and that you don’t lose any of your bank deposits! I don’t want you to have to depend on Clarence to get you out of trouble. (If you don’t get that last line, then watch the movie already!)

© 2019 Charles Marshall. Charles Marshall is a nationally known humorous motivational speaker and author. Visit his Web site or contact him via e-mail at

, ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply