Americans have their zingers, no, not the sickly sweet little cakes favoured by office workers but the stinging retort. They are in the news because the race for the White House is made more entertaining for viewers by a televised debate between the candidates in which the aim is to get your zingers in. Zingers add spice to what could be a rather dry exchange of selective and contradictory statistics. The challenger quoted statistics to show the US Navy is smaller than in 1917 the President hit back with” you don’t understand the modern military. The US also has” fewer horses and bayonets than in 1917.” The zinger is basically a putdown designed to make the other person look foolish. Clearly it is part of politics but is it part of leadership?

As a senior manager appearing before the members scrutiny panel I have certainly experienced being on the receiving end. It goes without saying that officers don’t make such responses to members. What about the chief executive who uses putdowns in the senior management team to stifle debate if it’s not going in the right direction? We have all experience someone in power a boss or a teacher use sarcasm to make us look foolish and feel small. The President went on to say "we have these things called aircraft carriers," and continued with. "We have these ships that go underwater – nuclear submarines!"

I don’t really think sarcasm has much place in management although I do recognize that humor can sometimes defuse a hostile audience .That is why I rather like this one by another US president.”If I were two faced would I be wearing this one?”

Blair McPherson author of UnLearning management published by Russell House www.blairmcpherson.co.uk

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