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