As Scrooge discovered, leaders hold great power, “to make the people who work for them happy or unhappy; to make their service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil.”
Everyone knows the famous Christmas tale, A Christmas Carol, authored by Charles Dickens…
If you don’t, the book tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old businessman who makes everyone in his presence feel degraded. Bob Cratchit, his employee, suffers quietly under Scrooge. He feels neither valued nor respected and his family suffers along with him.
On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his former business partner, Jacob Marley, who warns him of his thoughtless and unjust ways. Scrooge is also visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet to Come.
After their visits, Scrooge is able to see how his egotistical and inconsiderate behavior has negatively affected those around him. Ultimately, he is transformed into a kinder, gentler man.
In one scene, the Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge back in time to a Christmas party being held by his former employer, Mr. Fezziwig. Scrooge watches the scene and marvels at how happy Mr. Fezziwig had always made everyone feel. Speaking of his former employer Scrooge declares to the Spirit:
“He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil… his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up: The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.”
Have you ever been on a project or in a work environment led by a person who made your life miserable? In a setting that was dysfunctional, unsupportive, distrustful, passive-aggressive…oppressive?
Do you remember how awful you felt?
Have you ever been on a project or in a work environment led by a person that made your life happier? An atmosphere where you were treated with respect and professionalism? A place that was supportive? Where you experienced goodwill, candor, and gratitude on pretty much a daily basis?
Do you remember how good that felt?
If you think back on those times, you’ll most likely be even more appreciative of those good men and women on those projects that made you feel valued and respected.
Two Types of Leaders
There are two types of leaders – good and bad – and each has very specific traits.
Characteristics of Good Leaders
- Self-assured and confident
- Emotionally stable, mature, and tend to be empathetic and thoughtful of those around them
- Decisive, creating a steady environment
- Grateful when tasks have been completed
- Honest and tend to have genuine goodwill toward others
Characteristics of Bad Leaders
- Insecure and anxious about details of their work
- Micro-manages and controls
- Emotionally unstable and immature, creating a chaotic environment
- Lacking composure in times of high pressure
- Distrustful of the skills and abilities of those around them
Scrooge, before his epiphany, would have certainly fallen into the category of a bad leader.
Leaders have a choice to make every workday. Are they going to lead with the characteristics of a good leader or a bad leader? Are they going to let their negative personality traits damage the work environment and those around them the way Scrooge did?
Anyone who is responsible for others and in a leadership position has a great responsibility to create a healthy, positive, and supportive work environment for those around them. Why?
Because as Scrooge discovered, people in positions of leadership hold great power, “to make the people who work for them happy or unhappy; to make their service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil.”
And that’s no small thing.