A DRiV Case Study: The “Insight” Factor and Jack Skellington
From Halloween to Christmas—it’s the most wonderful time of the year! To celebrate, I’d like to discuss a portion of the DRiV assessment that is best exemplified by Jack Skellington, the lead character from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Jack is one of my favorite fictional characters because he presents a surprisingly complex and interesting leadership portrait. The DRiV assessment is my favorite of OKA’s tools because of how validating it is. The DRiV deals largely with identity—who we are at our core. It gives us a language to describe and recognize the motives and values that most drive and drain us. Unique among many of the day’s popular development tools, the DRiV celebrates and embraces the things that make us tick while recognizing that none of us is perfect.
Here’s how the DRiV works—there are 28 different “drivers,” values or motives that underpin our behaviors—each of which drive or drain us to some degree. These 28 drivers are collected within 6 overall categories or “factors.” One of these factors is “Insight,” made up of Creativity, Growth, Wisdom, and Compliance. Jack Skellington is the perfect way to illustrate these drivers in action.
For those who have never seen “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” I beg of you, stop whatever you’re doing, go watch it, and come back and read this. However, I’ll still give some context and a bit of a plot refresher on this Halloween/Christmas cult classic.
Who is Jack Skellington?
Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town; his whole world is Halloween. Witches, vampires, ghouls, ghosts, and all manner of Tim Burton-esque monsters (Tim Burton is the movie’s producer) lurk around every corner. Among the creepy citizens of Halloween Town, Jack is the most feared and revered—even the town’s elected mayor looks up to him and seeks his approval. Soon after the opening scene, we see Jack singing a sad soliloquy about how lonely it is at the top. He’s the best and everyone knows it. However, he is so good that it offers nothing new or challenging, and Jack is not satisfied with the status quo. During a moment of introspection, Jack gets lost and finds himself in Christmas land. The novelty of Christmas ignites a passionate curiosity in Jack, and the rest of the movie revolves around Jack enthusiastically trying to make Christmas his own and to improve the holiday within his vision.
Ultimately, Jack Skellington’s plan collapses. The citizens of Halloween town never really grasp the point of Christmas and wind up creating an army of scary, evil toys while Jack loses track of reality and gets lost in his vision. Jack finally realizes that he is responsible, and he rights his wrongs and saves the day. After a moment of self-pity, Jack comes to, feeling grateful and already thinking about new, better plans for next Halloween. Along the way, we see a complex and charismatic leader who relies on his ambition and vision to innovate and drive himself and his community forward. Let’s look at Jack Skellington through a DRiV lens.
The Insight Factor
Composed of Creativity, Growth, Wisdom and Compliance, the Insight Factor is about the drive to grow, learn, and develop. Compliance is negatively correlated with Insight, meaning people with greater Insight tend to have lower scores in Compliance. The DRiV identifies those values and motives that drive and drain you—but these results are value-neutral. It is not good or bad to be driven or drained by any one of the DRiV’s drivers.
Jack Skellington’s Creativity
Creativity is about wanting to think and solve problems in unique ways. People with high Creativity are energized by inventing or envisioning new ways of doing things. They are driven to be trail blazers who take satisfaction in approaching life and work with innovation and novelty.
Jack’s Creativity driver is on display throughout the entire movie—Jack is a consistent force of innovation and novel action. A pivotal scene showing this driver when Jack has locked himself in a lab while he attempts to study Christmas. He sings the song, “Jack’s Obsession,” in which he ponders and buzzes about Christmas, which he experiences as quite an enigma. It’s entirely unlike anything he’s ever experienced in his life, and he just doesn’t get it. Although there is frustration in his tone, this is an act of passion. After days, or even weeks of being locked inside by himself, he decides to make Christmas his own. “Why, I could make a Christmas tree! And there’s no reason I can find, I couldn’t have a Christmas time! I’ll bet I could improve it too, and that’s exactly what I’ll do!” Jack exclaims at the end of the song. Jack comes to believe, “This thing exists, but I’m going to make it my own, and improve it.” This is pure, unbridled, fiery Creativity in action.
Jack Skellington’s Wisdom
The Wisdom driver is about taking in and thinking through the big picture, becoming an expert, and being energized by sharing one’s own opinion and insight. Being asked to offer counsel and to share well-informed opinions and insights are important to people driven by Wisdom. In the movie, the “Town Meeting Song” exemplifies Wisdom beautifully. This song is also an interesting example of how the Wisdom driver in leadership can create some tension when left unchecked.
Jack Skellington has just returned from Christmas land and is already determined to tell everyone the good news—to teach them this knowledge he now possesses. He tries explaining concepts like wrapping gifts, hanging stockings, Christmas trees, and Santa Clause. However, to Jack’s frustration, his audience isn’t grasping the point. He has the vision, and because the town respects him, they are excited to take it on, but they don’t come anywhere close to “getting it.” When Jack shuts himself away to do a deep study and analysis of Christmas—in addition to showing us his Creativity driver, this is a wonderful portal into his Wisdom as well. Jack wants to be an expert—the go-to on all things Christmas.
Jack Skellington’s Growth
Growth seems to be Jack’s top driver. Jack’s drive to grow, advance, and develop is on clear display and is at the core of his identity all throughout the story. The first glimpse into his mind we get is a ballad on his dissatisfaction with his life. He’s at the top of his field! There’s nobody in the world he can’t scare, and he is universally accepted as the best there is at what he does. “Yet year after year, it’s the same routine, and I grow so weary of the sound of screams. And I, Jack! The Pumpkin King have grown so tired of the same old thing.” The entire movie is about his chasing something new that will provide him with a higher sense of accomplishment. While the novelty of what he seeks is the Creativity driver, the urgency to drive forward and grow is Jack’s Growth driver.
It’s difficult to capture the Growth driver more precisely than that; it’s all about the drive towards learning and development. Those with high Growth strive to know more, to grow, and to do better. Perfection itself might be unattainable, but the constant pursuit of it is what makes life interesting. There’s rarely a moment we don’t see Jack on-screen where he isn’t trying to do something to develop himself and to move forward—even if, albeit misguided at times. For many people, a constant state of unfamiliarity might place them constantly outside their comfort zone. However, for those with high Growth, being static is what is draining. A great moment of Growth is highlighted near the end of the movie. Jack’s plans have literally crashed and burned. His attempt to take over Christmas ends in horror and disaster. For many, this could be a moment of final defeat. When faced with the failure of his plan, Jack briefly retreats and hides. However, a brief moment of self-pity passes, and then springs back and expresses how excited he is for next Halloween, and how he has “some new ideas that’ll REALLY make them scream!” He is always looking forward, and always thinking about the next step he has to take in his development—that is someone driven by Growth.
Jack Skellington’s Compliance (or lack thereof)
Compliance is about the drive to adhere to rules. Compliance is an interesting driver because it is the only one in the Insight Factor that is negatively correlated. The lower your Compliance driver, the higher your overall score in the Insight Factor becomes. Those with high Compliance are energized when there are clear rules and consistent processes that people understand and are made to follow. Those with low Compliance, like Mr. Skellington, are drained by rule-following and prefer having the freedom to question the rules. Those folks with a low Compliance driver are repelled by convention. Low Compliance leaders are driven to create innovation, but guidelines and existing norms can exist for a good reason.
Jack operates from the start independently of the rules. The entire story unfolds due to not only his curiosity and drive to grow and change, but his total refusal to stay in his lane and follow the rules that maintain order in his world. Jack is clearly drained by rule-following, and that creates tension upon tension and a horrible mess (but it also creates this contemporary Halloween/Christmas classic movie).
Watch The Nightmare Before Christmas, and when you do, watch it through the lens of the DRiV. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, is a fun, complex character, and a compelling leader from whom we can learn a lot. If you’d like to learn more about the DRiV, please check out our website to learn more. We regularly have FREE webinars on various topics, as well as certification workshops available for you or your organization. Sign up for our newsletter to stay updated on our free events!
Thanks for reading and have a Merry Halloween and a spooky Christmas this year! – Whitten