What I learnt from the Yellow Wiggle

The original handover from Greg to Sam

Recently the children’s entertainment group know as the Wiggles, decided to bring back Greg as the Yellow Wiggle.  Whilst many parents were upset because they liked Sam as the Yellow Wiggle, in this blog post we will look at what this teaches us as leaders in our situation.

Background about the Wiggles

  1. If you don’t know who the Wiggles are then you must not have kids.  They are a children’s entertainment group from Australia that have entertained millions of children.  The Wiggles have won every award possible in their category and are in the Music Hall of Fame.
  2. A few years ago Greg, one of the four original members was replaced by Sam because Greg was unwell.  Sam was much younger and connected well with the kids.
  3. Most of the four original Wiggles would now be their 50’s.  The original four will not last forever so what is their exit strategy?

What can we learn from the replacement of the Yellow Wiggle?

  1. Look to replace yourself – Whilst it was sad to see Greg leave, bringing in Sam was a chance to replace the original line up one person at a time.  When you replace yourself in an up front roll, you train up more people who can do your job if needed.  Bringing in Sam was the perfect way to get the audience used to seeing a new Wiggle. Every few years the Wiggles could be replace another member so that the fans always knew at least one Wiggle.  Going back to an original member was a backward step to replacing yourself.  In your role as a leader are you training up others to replace you or do you hog center stage?
  2. It is not about you – By replacing Greg and bringing in Sam it helps the audience connect with the brand of the Wiggles rather than the individuals.  The Wiggles had the opportunity to build a fan base rather than boosting the self-confidence of an individual.  Bringing back Greg give the impression that the true Wiggles are the original four members.  In your leadership role is it about building your ministry or boosting your ego?
  3. Don’t just hire your friends – in terms of the Wiggles reaching their audience, Sam was the better choice amongst this generation of fans.  By going back to an old friend the Wiggles lost a lot in the public relations department.  It told the fans that it was about what the original members wanted rather than what the fans wanted.  In your leadership role do people have to be friends with you to get ahead or can the best people rise up?

Application to a ministry setting

We all know a “Yellow Wiggle” situation where one leader has been replaced by a new leader.  Perhaps you know situation where that went well or perhaps you know situations where it didn’t work so well.  In a previous post I wrote about how this can be done well  (see Building a Legacy for more).  We know that in a Youth Ministry situation leaders move every 2-3 years and each leader has their own style.  In a local church, the senior minister moves every 5-10 years and a new senior minister can bring a 180 degree shift.  So as a leader at any level remember these three things:

  1. Look to replace yourself before it gets too late and you decide to leave.
  2. It is not about you it is about the people
  3. Don’t just recruit from your friendship circle; build up the people who will best minister to those in your ministry.

If you ever forget these three things then just think about a man jumping around a stage in a Yellow Skivvy.

Please leave a comment, especially if you had any thoughts on the replacement of Sam as the Yellow Wiggle.


markoffaith, MarkofFaith, mark of faith, Mark of Faith, mrmarkmcdonald, Mark McDonald


12 thoughts on “What I learnt from the Yellow Wiggle

  1. mc_traveller says:

    This subject has caused so much talk and I guess we will never really understand the replacement of Sam. I do admire the manner in which Sam made his exist. He hasn’t publicised any negative comments about his time with the Wiggles or his replacement. Whilst it could be said that he would be paid not to talk, I think it still shows the sign of a good character to accept the change with dignity. This is so hard to do within a workplace when we don’t agree with decisions made or changes in direction.

    • Mark McDonald says:

      Thanks for the comment. As a parent with kids in the target age you probably see the confusion in the kids first hand. What is the reaction of most parents?
      You are right about Sam; if you want your personal legacy to be strong then you can’t burn your bridges as you leave. Besides, the Wiggles have given him a global platform from which to build his career and that is priceless.

  2. Philippe Dulawan says:

    Mark! Keep up the great work.

    As a person who is new to Ministry, this is a good reminder, even from the very start that the more that I am replaceable and bring others along the journey the better it is! I do dream now that it would be an great thing to be able to be at home and realize that the youth night is running along smoothly!!!

    • Mark McDonald says:

      Thanks for the comments. Check out some of my other blog posts to get ideas, especially about building a legacy. Your longevity in ministry will be measured in decades not years if you can make ministry about Jesus and not about you. Good Luck with your ministry.

  3. Jenny McDonald says:

    Great comments Mark and very thought provoking. It was interesting that there was an article on one of the news websites the other day stating that the Wiggles had a $1.2M loss for the last year and in fact were only able to trade because of finance from the original owners. It also aluded to this fact as being one of the reasons for taking Greg back in place of Sam – it just goes to show that money or lack of it does influence decisions and not always for the best.

  4. Wiggles Rock says:

    For a group of men to have dedicated their entire adult lives, their talent and their music to the education of young children for so many many years, I am disgusted the people in Australia are so easy to kick them to the curb. Really it’s a pathetic gesture that demonstrates how much you do not deserve The Wiggles. And here I thought it was the children that were supposed like children. Ashamed of you. And an open invitation for them to come plant their roots in America if they are sick of the depreciation.

    • Mark McDonald says:

      Can I just say that I love the Wiggles and they make me proud to be Australia. I am sure they are all nice people and I have a lot of respect for the work they do in the community. The real purpose of this post is not to “bash” the Wiggles, it is to show that building a legacy is important. I hope the Wiggles get this right so that many millions more children are blessed by they amazing work.
      Perhaps it was missed in the American press but thousands of children in Australia were sad to “loose” Sam the yellow Wiggle. They could have handled the situation better. This was the television interview that hurt many people : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Eou-NjRDuqg

  5. Greg Page says:

    Dear Mark, I just came across this blog today – a year or more after the so called “controversial” replacement of Sam. I found your blog interesting, and some of the comments about your blog seem to have a lot more insight and depth than other peoples’ comments I have seen posted about the situation.

    • Mark McDonald says:

      Thanks Greg for your comments. In my line of work, youth ministry, there is very little succession planning and much of the ministry relies on strong personality. So my post on the Yellow Wiggles was more of an analogy for succession planning than a critical review of the Wiggles. As you pointed out much of our perceptions on the matter come from opinion and speculation rather than facts. In church and ministry leadership most of the opinions outsiders hold about the Church are also speculation however the level of media scrutiny is zero. Twelve months on the result of succession planning for the Wiggles seems good news to me; the new team will deliver sustainability like I wrote in the post. Perhaps it is time for me to do a follow up post for all my readers.

      On a personal level I hope that your health is improving and that you are doing well. My two sons loved watching the Wiggles, even the early videos where the skivvies were just coloured t-shirts, including Anthony in Green.

      Thanks for you comments, do you have any additional advice for those of us in ministry leadership? You thoughts would be helpful.

  6. Greg Page says:

    It would appear to me that a lot of people have formed their opinions about this whole situation based on what the media have reported about the matter, rather than what is fact. That is the disappointing thing. However, that is what it is. There is more to the situation than has been reported, mis-reported and non-reported. I trust that people will see the totality of the situation rather than a mere snippet presented by the media in a certain way. Regards, Greg

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