When I was in 6th grade, my music teacher, Mr. Jones, played us some “Switched-On Bach” – Bach performed on synthesizer. That was pretty cool back in 1980. If you’re over 40, I bet you know what I’m talking about. It actually got me really interested in “real” Bach music; I’m a fan to this day.
Mr. Jones was a real advocate, and fed me more to listen to, and encouraged my unusual (for a 6th-grade boy) passion for Baroque music. Until one day…
The big payoff at the end of the year (if we were good) was the “Rock and Roll Filmstrip Series.” (again, you gotta be over 40 to dig all these references. sorry.)
When Mr. Jones announced this was coming, he said, offhand,
“Then there’s Alan. All he wants to listen to is Bach!”
Classmates laughed, of course. Mr. Jones smiled at me, as if to say “just kidding. I know you can handle it. I only ‘pick on the people I really like.’”
I was embarrassed, sure, but more so, I felt betrayed. Who was this guy? The one who encouraged my Bach passion, or the one who made fun of it? Jerk.
Fast forward to recent history, where I am the jerk.
After one witty exchange with an acquaintance, in which I was extremely funny (really, quite hilarious, I assure you), my wife said to me:
“You know, when you’re sarcastic, it keeps people guessing. Even people who know you well. Do you really want that?”
No. Who is this guy? The one who encourages genuine connection and positive relationships (for a living!), or the one who uses them for cheap laughs? Jerk.
Effective leadership requires positive relationships, which require genuine connection.
Which isn’t possible with sarcasm, or “only picking on the people you like.”
There is no place for sarcasm in effective leadership. Humor, yes! Sarcasm – picking on people – no. Sorry. While it may be hilarious, it keeps people guessing, and wary.
And you don’t want that.