Ebenezer Scrooge (a well known character in Dicken’s A Christmas Carol–Summary here) was a miserable and miserly business owner who seemingly hated Christmas and people. He’s known for his Bah! Humbug! response to his nephew’s Merry Christmas.
My colleague Tim Edris and I are fortunate to not have any true Scrooges in our practice. After all, a real Scrooge would never hire a us! Nonetheless, dear old Scrooge can teach us a lot.
In the novel, Ebenezer Scrooge is visited in his dreams by his deceased partner Jacob Marley. Marley’s ghost, because of his own selfish life, is condemned to walk the earth in heavy chains. He visits from the grave in his effort to protect his partner Scrooge from the same awful fate. He promises Scrooge he’ll be visited by three spirits on Christmas eve.
If we applied this narrative arc to your leadership journey, how would it read? What would the spirits of leadership development show you?
First for Scrooge comes the Ghost of Christmas Past. Scrooge is full of regrets as he visits his past.
If the Ghost of Leadership Past visited you, what would you notice about your past leadership? How did you hold back on casting vision? Neglect relationships? Control too much? Disengage? Alternatively, how were you generous? Collaborative? Courageous? Visionary? Achieving?
Next for Ebenezer came the Ghost of Christmas Present. Scrooge watches the lives of his family and employees in celebration. He realizes how he’s cutting himself off from joy and wonder in his choice to be distant.
What would The Ghost of Leadership Present reveal to you about your present life and leadership? If you had access to your peoples’ thoughts and feelings about you as a leader, what would they say? What would they praise? Where would they say you fall short? What would they want more of from you and for your leadership?
The last visit for Scrooge comes from The Ghost of Christmases Yet to Come. He’s brought to a churchyard cemetery where he hears businessmen discussing the dead man’s riches. He sees vagabonds trading the dead man’s personal effects and a poor couple celebrating that their unforgiving creditor is gone. Scrooge is horrified to read his own name on the tombstone. In this moment, he pleads with the spirit to let him change his miserly ways.
Lest you feel this post is leading you to a most dismal place, the wonderful news for Scrooge is that he wakes up with the realization that Christmas hasn’t happened yet. He gets to choose to be different, having learned so much from the three spirits. He goes on to have a wonderful and generous Christmas, a changed man forevermore.
At this time of year or anytime, we can look objectively at ourselves and our leadership. We can celebrate our connections, contributions, courage and results. And we can face with bravery the brutal truth of our reality. If it is not as we want it to be, we can embrace a growth mindset to learn and change.
If the Ghost of Leadership Yet to Come visited you, what do you want to be seeing in your life and leadership this time next year? At the end of your life, what do you want to be your leadership legacy?
If you’re a little Scrooge-like in some aspects of your life or leadership at the moment, take heart. We are too.
But Bah Humbug? Not a chance!
May your year in leadership be full of light and learning.
Merry Christmas to you,