Why are we missing two of the most important facets of being human in any talk about leadership?
Tons of books, articles, plays and movies exist on leadership. Very few mention love and irony. Why are 2 of the most prevalent themes in the world of human interaction missing in the discussion?
Irony is when you have a surface or stated meaning and an underlying but actual, real or intended meaning. To complete the irony, there needs to be a lesson given. Another way to say it is that in an ironical situation, there are 2 audiences – one who catches the nuance and perhaps the joke (the intended meaning) and one who misses the joke (listening only for the literal meaning). The lesson comes from the intended meaning. How often have you, me or someone you know missed the joke, intended meaning or the lesson?
Why develop this irony?
As a leader, you must develop a sense of irony or else you will miss educational opportunities and become automatons. That automaticity is what leads us to mindlessness – a failure to appreciate new information, a failure to see new or different perspectives and a failure to create new categories of information (reference Ellen Langer – writer and professor at Harvard University). Hence the need for Dilbert cartoons, Hogan’s Heroes, The Daily News and Bill Hicks.
Irony like love is everywhere and can be found if we look hard enough. Like most qualities, it is developed with practice. Along with an appreciation for irony, there comes a keener listening and a willingness to embrace and work with all that life throws at you – good and bad, right or wrong. If you are going to tell me ‘Sunil there is no good or bad, right or wrong’, you have missed the lesson on irony. The lesson requires deeper reflection and inquiry, but the rewards are rich.
Where love comes in…
One reward is a deeper appreciation for the ultimate irony – that you and I like everyone else will miss the irony in our own life too – nobody is immune to irony. Maybe this is the true equalizer – what makes us all equal in the name of irony is that we all at some point in our lives, miss or fail to see the irony. If that makes us equal, then there may not be a need for arrogance nor any need for self degradation – and if both arrogance and self degradation diminish or disappear, could we be left with the increased capacity to love and be loved?
Maybe true leadership is about love and the irony is that we fail to see that.