The PM’s recent disastrous speech to business leaders reminded me of
this piece I wrote a few years ago. You don’t think he read it do you?
Being a bit of a comedian
I like a number of my colleagues had applied for the post of area
manager. We were all siting in this room waiting for our individual
interviews. Maybe it was nerves but this one guy kept up a steady
stream of jokey comments and soon the polite laughter and mild groans
turned to silent irritation. The guy had a reputation as a bit of a
comedian but this was not the occasion to play the clown. This is the
opposite of having gravitas, that air of calm, confident, wisdom that
I assumed you acquired at some point in your senior management career.
I mention this as there appears to be a debate about whether leaders
could or should be comedians. I don’t necessarily mean telling jokes.
There are however skills a comedian has that would be very useful to a
senior manager or leader. The ability to hold the attention of an
audiences, to be able to judge the mood of an audience and adjust the
material and tone of delivery, to be able to think on your feet and
have the instant wit and repartee to deal with a heckler or aggressive questioner.
Some of the best comedy isn’t about a steam of one liners or a
series of short unrelated funny stories. Billy Connelly like many
comedians weaves stories together around a theme and finds humour in
ever day things, drawing attention to the ridiculous, the unintended
consequences, the inconsistencies and the contradictions inherent in
the behaviour we all recognise. It makes you think. Using humour in
this way draws attention to serious issues rather than deflects it.
Wouldn’t it be a useful skill for any senior manager or leader to
have this ability to explain their vision and values in modern day parables?
Every job description for a senior manager I have seen says, must be
an excellent communicator.” But how many are? I’m not suggesting
interviews for senior management posts should require candidates to
tell a joke. Make us laugh and get the job but.....
Blair Mcpherson Director ,author and blogger www.blairmcpherson.co.uk