A Leadership Lesson from Stand-up Comedies

I enjoy watching stand-up comedies. People like Louis C.K., Dave Chappelle, Mike Birbiglia, Trevor Noah, Ryan Hamilton, John Mulaney comes to mind. I’ve been watching the shows to learn English (great teachers, I know) and pick up some useful dialog patterns to use during sales calls.

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I think there’s something magical about stand-up comedies. There’s a great balancing act of psychology how comedians connect with the audience. The comedian captures the audience, puts them in a situation, then does something completely unexpected or extreme that gives catharsis to the audience, letting them play a role that will not likely happen in their own life, things they will not likely do or say. And it creates a seemingly spontaneous reaction in a form of a laughter to so many diverse people in the room, which has been carefully planned and perfected by the comedian.

We all know this, because even though comedies are hard to create, are easy to enjoy.

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The Accountability of a Leader

When I was young, I’ve fantasized about the Wall Street and its masculine bossy cultures. I’m not sure if I admired it, but it was fun to watch in the movies and I felt the catharsis of running a fast-paced organization full of workers doing homogeneous jobs, with the boss being the absolute best at it. Like those Chinese martial art movies where the teacher is the best martial artist in the country.

It became clear to me this was not always the case. In reality, the junior investment bankers stayed up late, crunched numbers, done researches and wrote reports, while their bosses went out to grab drinks and have fun. When the juniors got promoted, they too became like their bosses, reaping on high salary and bonuses while getting the new blood to serve them well. Deep inside, I’ve always felt this wasn’t really the kind of leader I respected nor wanted to become.

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When I worked for a tech company back in my early 20s, our team’s manager was an eccentric guy. He joked a lot, sounded silly from time to time, didn’t seem that intense or focused on work, felt like he was laid back most of the time.

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Order and Chaos in a Company Culture

The society today upholds diversity as an absolute virtue. Diversity across educational backgrounds, race, ethnic group, gender, age is something we all pursue vigorously. It seems almost trivial to choose diversity over conformity or homogeneity in any discussion.

However, to put things into perspective, nature having evolved through millions, if not billions of years, may provide a slightly different view to this pro-diversity world. The balance and the timing of convergence and divergence play important roles in reaching the global optimum in any search space. The selection pressure from the environment acting as a converging force, offset by mutation from perturbation balancing as a diverging force are what make organisms so durable and adaptable to the ever-changing world we’re living in.

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