Four leadership lessons from Ebenezer Scrooge
Hello, Ebenezer, I’ve been waiting here for you... – The Ghost of Jacob Marley
Listen to most any radio station and you will hear the Christmas Carols. The stores are decorated and the bells are ringing. Yes, Christmas is upon us. Are you ready? Are you in the Christmas spirit?
The festivities and good cheer can bring out the best in people. It’s a time to reflect, give thanks, and give back.
But it’s also a time to look back on another year before it closes out and reflect upon your progression as a leader and to make plans for your growth and development going into the New Year. With the help of one such literary character of Christmas, we will learn some lessons of leadership that can help you all year.
Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” is a favorite for many. It’s a timeless story that has entertained for generations. But let’s not overlook the leadership lessons that can be found in the story. Here are four.
EPIPHANIES HAPPEN FOR A REASON
As Scrooge was preparing for bed he was visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley shows Scrooge the fate that had befallen him due to the way he abused the poor and hoarded his wealth. Marley’s fate was now to walk the earthbound in the chains of his own greed. Marley explains to Scrooge that this too would be his fate if he did not change his ways.
There comes a time in the life of every leader that you must take stock of who you are, where you are, and re-connect with your purpose in life. Your epiphany can be a wake-up call to make some major changes in your life or it can be to reaffirm the course you are on. But regardless, pay attention and heed the warning.
NOT EVERYTHING THAT GLITTERS IS GOLD
The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge on a stroll down memory lane from his time as a young man. He is seen enjoying a Christmas party given by his boss Mr. Fezziwig. But things take a foretelling turn when the ghost shows him a Christmas in which his fiancée, Belle, leaves him because she realizes he cares more about money than her. He then sees Belle several years later on Christmas Eve happily married to another man.
Scrooge was blinded by his love for money and by his greed. It became his identity. It was more important to him than relationships. In leadership, the bottom line is not money; it’s people. Don’t mistake your money for power or your influence for integrity. They are not the same. When you are right on the issue of people and relationships, everything else will eventually take care of itself.
The Ghost of Christmas Present shows Scrooge the festivities of London as well as a sickly Tiny Tim, Bob Cratchit’s son. Upon expressing his concern for the boy, the ghost informs him that he will die unless something changes. The ghost uses Scrooge’s words about “decreasing the surplus population” against him. Presented with two more sick children to see, again, his own words, “Are there no prisons, no workhouses?” come back to haunt him.
As leaders, it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and say things that we wish we could take back. I’ve spoken my fair share. How about you? Perhaps it’s time to learn how to pause a few seconds longer before speaking the first thing that comes to mind. How about a more kind and thoughtful approach? Make no mistake – words matter. And you can do a lot less damage with your mouth closed.
IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO CHANGE
The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come shows Scrooge Christmas Day one year later, where Tiny Tim has died just as the previous spirit predicted he would. Then the ghost shows Scrooge scenes of the death of a “wretched man” and how some people make fun of him and are even relieved that he is dead. The ghost then shows Scrooge the tombstone- and it bears his name. Scrooge weeps over his grave and begs for another chance before awakening to find that it’s Christmas Day. A remorseful Scrooge repents and becomes a generous man. He visits Fred, gives Cratchit a raise, and takes Tiny Tim under his wings.
To be sure, leaders are human and come with many flaws. But the story of Ebenezer Scrooge is a reminder about the importance of generosity, the value of relationships, and what matters most in life. It’s a reminder about the importance our lives moving in the direction of redemption.
(Editor’s Note: This column first appeared in The Daniel Island News in December 2016.)
©2017 Doug Dickerson