I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading Jonathan Herron’s book, Comedy-Driven Leadership: Think Like a Comedian, Move Forward Like a Leader. I liked the title. As someone who has been in a variety of leadership positions during my career as a police officer, and as someone who has served in a number of leadership positions in the church, I understand there is a certain amount of comedy involved. This was especially true of my job in Law Enforcement. Working for the government contained a level of unintended humor that is hard to top.
As I began to read about Herron’s own journey from a comdedian who trained at Second City in Chicago with the legendary Tina Fey, to a successful church planter, I was hooked. Most of Herron’s comedic training involved improvisation. It is no surprise that so many of Second City’s alumni ended up on Saturday Night Live.
The concept for Comedy-Driven Leadership is very different from most of the other books on leadership that line my shelves. Herron explores the many similarities of leadership and improvisational comedy. For example, the first principle that Herron discusses is to Start with a “Yes.” He says, “The most basic rule and premise of creating comedy is agreement. When you’re improvising on the fly, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created and thrown out there…Saying “No” grinds invention, innovation and forward-movement to a screeching halt.”
Starting with a “Yes” is also vital for the leadership and forward-movement of an organization. How many times has a church or business come to a screeching halt because of a “No?” Along with having progress stopped by a “No,” a “But” can also stop creativity and the fulfillment of a leader’s vision.
Herron’s advice is that whenever possible, leaders need to say “Yes,” when a team member makes a suggestion or has an idea. Taking another page from improvisational comedy, Herron says that an even better response is “Yes and…” The “Yes and…” response allows the leader to take the team members idea and incorporate it into the vision that they are all working towards. This is the way that good improvisational comedy works. Each player brings something to the scenario and they build on each other’s ideas.
Comedy Driven Leadership has some great stories from Herron’s time at Second City. Better yet, it contains some great leadership advice. More than just providing a book of leadership do’s and dont’s, however, Herron provides us with a new kind of leadership philosophy. We all need a little more comedy in our leadership style!
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