Charles Dicken’s 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, more commonly known simply as A Christmas Carol, is a perennial favorite of millions of people during the Christmas season. The story centers around Ebenezer Scrooge, a selfish and unlikable miser who hates Christmas. The story has been retold, reworked, and recreated dozens (or perhaps hundreds) of times in plays, movies, and books.
As we approach the Christmas holiday in 2020… I thought it would be fun to take a quick look at the valuable leadership lessons we can glean from this classic story:
Leadership Lessons from Christmas Past
We must constantly remind our students that good leaders learn from their mistakes and strive to not repeat them in the future. Babies don’t learn to walk without falling down, repeatedly. All of us, no matter how accomplished we are in our profession, have had to face failures, some of our own doing, some thrust upon us. Some of the best – and most memorable lessons we learn come from these mistakes and failures. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge was forced to face the mistakes he had made and the opportunities that he had missed. In the end, he recognized that he could never change the past, but he had the opportunity to learn from his mistakes and ensure they were not repeated in the future. We must teach our law students to do the same. The past can’t be changed. But as Professor Walt Shelton shared recently, each of us should, on a regular basis, openly and honestly analyze our successes and failures and try to learn the lessons that each have to offer.
Leadership Lessons from Christmas Future
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that as humans, we have incredibly limited ability to predict future events. If we had been asked two or three years ago to predict how many of the nation’s law schools would be teaching their curriculum online during a pandemic – none of us would even come close to a correct prediction. None of us know with certainty what the future holds. The only thing certain about the future is uncertainty. With the rapidly changing circumstances, technology, and social mores in the world today, it is more important than ever that we train our law students to be proactive, flexible, and adaptable. Dean Teague has emphasized in recent posts the importance of training our students with grit and resilience. These are traits that can be learned – and implemented.
Is your law school promoting a culture of empowerment and change? Are you focused on the future or stuck in the past doing the same things, in the same way, and surprised with the same outcomes? Scrooge didn’t just learn from his visit to Christmas Future, he was willing to adapt and make much-needed changes. If we take this even further, we can see that when he changed, he became someone who supported, encouraged, and empowered others to succeed. A wonderful change indeed!
Leadership Lessons from Christmas Present
As Scrooge learned, changing the future requires making difficult – and sometimes painful – changes in the present.
According to the Texas Young Lawyers Association, the legal profession is “buckling under the weight of stress, anxiety, substance use, and depression.” For many, the holiday season, rather than being a time of relaxation and reflection, simply amplifies already high stress levels. As if the legal profession wasn’t stressful enough, the holidays can increase pressures on your time and resources — shopping, baking, decorating, and entertaining, just to name a few. The spread of COVID-19 is adding to an already stressful time – and many of us are worried about how to celebrate the season without endangering ourselves or others. It can all be too much!
This Christmas season, carve some time out of your schedule to relax and recharge. Turn off your work email for a few days (or weeks!) and spend time some doing something you truly enjoy. Read a good book, focus on a favorite hobby, take some good long walks, or simply binge-watch a few sappy Hallmark Christmas Specials. 2021 will be here before we know it – and the demands on your time will resume. Model good mental health and wellness for your students this Holiday season.
From all of us here at Baylor Law’s Training Lawyers as Leaders Blog… we wish you a wonderful holiday season.