By Peter Jeff
The Leadership Mints Guy
Here’s an idea to sharpen your ability to maintain control of a situation with humor. Reading time: 3:14.
When First Lady Nancy Reagan was criticized for her taste in expensive china and designer clothes, the wife of the President of the United States told reporters that she was not acting like a queen. “After all a tiara would surely muss my hair,” she grinned with her tongue firmly in her cheek.
In the 1858 senate race in Illinois, Stephen Douglas called Abe Lincoln a “two-faced man.” Lincoln calmly responded: “If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?”
And when Mohandas Gandhi was asked if he was embarrassed to visit the King of England dressed only in a loin cloth, Gandhi replied “Oh no, the King has on quite enough for both of us.”
Ah, the art of the quip–a powerful leadership tool –that can turn potentially embarrassing situations into amusing distractions and help a leader maintain control more with a hearty laugh than a hardened hand.
To help you sharpen your own wits and enhance your leadership thinking, here are a few quips I’ve collected over the years that leaders have used to humor their audiences in stressful circumstances.
- A college professor walked into to a lecture hall and found that his students had moved out all the chairs. The professor put down his notes, looked up and said triumphantly: Thank you for that standing ovation, amazing there’s so much interest in my talk tonight that every seat in the house is taken.”
- Victor Borge, the comedian pianist, had his own take on empty seats. He opened his show and notice that half of the seats were unsold. Nonplussed, Borgia deadpanned: “This must be a very rich audience. I see each of you have bought two or three seats.”
Mark Twain Even Gets Complainers to Laugh
- Mark Twain, the humorist and author, was only too ready with his tongue in his cheek when a newspaper subscriber who owed a business in town called to complain to the editor. “I noticed a live spider crawling around inside my newspaper, the subscriber said. Twain, the editor with his tongue firmly in his cheek, said the spider took up “temporary residence in the newspaper because it was looking for what merchants were NOT advertising in the newspaper. That way the spider could go to those stores who were not advertising; spin his web across the door and lead a life undisturbed.”
- An opposing member of Congress was critical of Henry Clay’s short term focus. He said that Clay spoke only for the present generation while he spoke for posterity. Clay retorted that the opposing Congressman seemed “resolved to speak until the arrival of his audience.”
- Lady Astor was the first woman elected to the House of Commons in Britain. A heckler chided her for wearing too much jewelry: “You have enough brass on you, Lady Astor, to make a kettle. And Lady Astor parried: “And you have enough water in your head to fill it.”
E-quip yourself like that and lead more effectively–with humor.
E-Quip yourself with a sense of humor to keep your leadership thinking in mint condition.
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