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Dec 17, 2006

Digg This Story

Christmas tale and generous managers

The Little Match Girl, Hans Christian Andersen

Leadership is not an inanimate object. It has a face, and more
importantly, it has a heart. The good leaders do not merely
command respect, they earn it. A leader who rules with an iron
fist will influence people once. A leader who rules with a kind
heart will influence people for a lifetime. We like to associate
with leaders who see themselves as humans, and not an
extraordinary species. For this reason, two of the greatest
leaders we personally respect and admire are Mother Teresa
and Mahatma Gandhi. This being a season of giving, let us
reflect upon our leadership and managerial style with this
familiar and heart-warming story.

Story:

The Little Match Girl

The Little Match Girl

(media kit from atlantafilmfestival.com)

Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark,
and evening-- the last evening of the year. In this cold and
darkness there went along the street a poor little girl,
bareheaded, and with naked feet. When she left home she had
slippers on, it is true; but what was the good of that? They
were very large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn;
so large were they; and the poor little thing lost them as she
scuffled away across the street, because of two carriages that
rolled by dreadfully fast.

One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid
hold of by an urchin, and off he ran with it; he thought it
would do capitally for a cradle when he some day or other
should have children himself. So the little maiden walked on
with her tiny naked feet, that were quite red and blue from
cold. She carried a quantity of matches in an old apron, and
she held a bundle of them in her hand. Nobody had bought
anything of her the whole livelong day; no one had given her
a single farthing.

She crept along trembling with cold and hunger--a very
picture of sorrow, the poor little thing!

The flakes of snow covered her long fair hair, which fell in
beautiful curls around her neck; but of that, of course, she
never once now thought. From all the windows the candles
were gleaming, and it smelt so deliciously of roast goose, for
you know it was New Year's Eve; yes, of that she thought.

In a corner formed by two houses, of which one advanced
more than the other, she seated herself down and cowered
together. Her little feet she had drawn close up to her, but she
grew colder and colder, and to go home she did not venture,
for she had not sold any matches and could not bring a
farthing of money: from her father she would certainly get
blows, and at home it was cold too, for above her she had
only the roof, through which the wind whistled, even though
the largest cracks were stopped up with straw and rags.

Her little hands were almost numbed with cold. Oh! a match
might afford her a world of comfort, if she only dared take a
single one out of the bundle, draw it against the wall, and
warm her fingers by it. She drew one out. "Rischt!" how it
blazed, how it burnt! It was a warm, bright flame, like a candle,
as she held her hands over it: it was a wonderful light. It
seemed really to the little maiden as though she were sitting
before a large iron stove, with burnished brass feet and a brass
ornament at top. The fire burned with such blessed influence;
it warmed so delightfully. The little girl had already stretched
out her feet to warm them too; but--the small flame went out,
the stove vanished: she had only the remains of the burnt-out
match in her hand.

She rubbed another against the wall: it burned brightly, and
where the light fell on the wall, there the wall became
transparent like a veil, so that she could see into the room.
On the table was spread a snow-white tablecloth; upon it was
a splendid porcelain service, and the roast goose was steaming
famously with its stuffing of apple and dried plums. And what
was still more capital to behold was, the goose hopped down
from the dish, reeled about on the floor with knife and fork in
its breast, till it came up to the poor little girl; when--the match
went out and nothing but the thick, cold, damp wall was left
behind. She lighted another match. Now there she was sitting
under the most magnificent Christmas tree: it was still larger,
and more decorated than the one which she had seen through
the glass door in the rich merchant's house.

Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and
gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-
windows, looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched
out her hands towards them when--the match went out. The
lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw
them now as stars in heaven; one fell down and formed a long
trail of fire.

"Someone is just dead!" said the little girl; for her old
grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who
was now no more, had told her, that when a star falls, a soul
ascends to God.

She drew another match against the wall: it was again light,
and in the lustre there stood the old grandmother, so bright
and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love.

"Grandmother!" cried the little one. "Oh, take me with you!
You go away when the match burns out; you vanish like the
warm stove, like the delicious roast goose, and like the
magnificent Christmas tree!" And she rubbed the whole
bundle of matches quickly against the wall, for she wanted to
be quite sure of keeping her grandmother near her. And the
matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at
noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so
beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm,
and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high,
and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety--
they were with God.

But in the corner, at the cold hour of dawn, sat the poor girl,
with rosy cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against
the wall--frozen to death on the last evening of the old year.
Stiff and stark sat the child there with her matches, of which
one bundle had been burnt. "She wanted to warm herself,"
people said. No one had the slightest suspicion of what
beautiful things she had seen; no one even dreamed of the
splendor in which, with her grandmother she had entered on
the joys of a new year.

Moral:

Spare a thought for the needy and the less fortunate.

Quotable Quotes:

“The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich
as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in
the streets, and to steal bread.” ... Anatole France

“Money is like manure. If you spread it around, it
does a lot of good, but if you pile it up in one place,
it stinks like hell.” ... Clint W. Murchison

“It is not the man who has too little, but the man
who craves more, that is poor.”
... Lucius Annaeus Seneca

“A decent provision for the poor is the true test of
civilisation.” ... Samuel Johnson

“I think leadership is valuing the time you spend
with your people more than anything else you do.”
... Herb Kelleher

“The key is not in spending time, but using it.”
... Arthur Bryan

[browse collection of quotes and quotations]

Lessons in life:

Most of us would have read this tale when we were young. It is
one of the most touching stories told during the Christmas
season – a poor little girl being forced to sell matches on a cold
evening, lighting the matches to keep warm, and finally falling
into a peaceful eternal sleep, never having to feel cold again. It
was said that Hans Christian Andersen wrote this tale about his
mother, who as a child, was sent out by her father to beg on the
streets, and fearing to go back empty-handed, she nearly froze
to death on a winter's night.

These stories highlight the plight, woes, and suffering faced by
the poor and needy. In some of the poorest Third World
countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, the rich and
affluent are known to exploit children for slavery and labor.
If you can remember, even the great NIKE had been accused
of using child labor to produce their soccer balls in Pakistan.
Of course, from NIKE's perspective, they were helping the
poor folks make a living, and if they didn't DO IT, many of
the poor would have died from starvation. Nonetheless,
critics had been quick to point out that increasing the demand
for child labor would only lead to higher birth rates, increased
slavery, and consequently less education opportunities for
the young, since parents will want their children to work in
sweatshops, and not schooled.

The Little Match Girl is a tale about humanity. During the
festive Christmas season, we see throngs of shoppers grabbing
at every bargain item from the shelves, while right outside the
stores are the hoboes and beggars longing for their next meal.
Perhaps, for all of us who believe in the true spirit of Christmas,
let us pledge our time to a community service project, or help
out a worthy cause. Pay some attention to the people around
us and reach out to them. Whatever you do, be sincere, and
give with a sense of conviction, and an empathetic heart. It is
no secret that donors enjoy tax benefits for the charitable
donations they give. Creating too much hype when you make a
donation may backfire as cynics may view it as a publicity
gimmick, rather than a generous gesture.

Generosity is not limited to monetary handouts. As a good
manager or boss, you would be generous if you are willing to
share your time, energy, and material resources with those in
need. Many well-off people are amenable to giving away
material wealth to help the needy, but are not able to spare
any time. One school of thought is that they need the “time”
to make and give more money to charity. Well, if you are
truly altruistic, you would agree with me that we are given
“time” to live, not solely for purposes of making money, but
also for bringing joy and happiness to the people around us.
I was usually mindful of the need to allocate time, in between
tight schedules, to meet staff. Sometimes, it could be as short
as one minute. Nevertheless, one minute was enough to be
briefed on a problem, make a quick decision, give an advice,
offer some guidance, delegate, or simply reassure and calm
the colleague. If it meant cutting back on my lunch hours, or
toilet breaks, so be it. These little pockets of time mean a lot
to the staff, and to the company as well. Supposing the matter
at hand is a major crisis, you are better off learning about it
early than late.

With this food for thought, and the rather humorous
greeting cards (below) which I received from a good friend,
I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas!

Kidding me:

Funny Christmas Card Santa

Funny Christmas Card Blind School Snowman

Funny Christmas Card Reindeer

Funny Christmas Card Job Evaluation

Funny Christmas Card Melt Snowman

Related Articles:

Staff is the most valuable asset
Incentives give the extra push to succeed
Give genuine appraisals
Value every team member
Value Ideas and Staff Suggestions
Higher Purpose and Job Satisfaction

Books worth reading:

The Christmas Candle is an interesting read. The question
asked, “Would you be more responsive to a brother's request
for money than to a beggar's request for money?” Using the
story of a young man buying an inexpensive candle instead
of a beautifully sculpted creation of the old chandler, the
author, Richard Paul Evans, tells a morality tale whose
haunting moodiness evokes the Dickensian ghost of Christmas
past.

Motivational writer Ken Blanchard and fast-food entrepreneur
S. Truett Cathy gives us a modern day parable in
Generosity Factor (TM), The. It demonstrates the importance
of giving and the joy of generosity, service, and relationships.
Towards the end, you will understand what it takes to succeed-
- whether in business, at home, or in life.

Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World
Poverty is an inspiring memoir of how Dr. Muhammad Yunus
in lending money to 42 poor women in Bangladesh founded the
Grameen Bank ,which is now a $2.5 billion banking enterprise.
His microcredit model has also spread to over 50 countries
worldwide, from the U.S. to Papua New Guinea, Norway to Nepal.
For his fight against poverty, Dr Yunus was awarded the Nobel
Peace prize 2006.

© Business Fables and Management Lessons

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Jim:
I like your interpretation for those simple tales, you can see with different perspective and deeper insight. Have you ever consider to publish it to a book?

Cheers
Fanny

bizwhiz said...

Hi Fanny

Haven't given it much thought, but we don't rule out that possibility. Thanks!

A MATTER OF PERSPECTIVES

Perspective Perspective Perspective