I had a boss once who tried to lead with humor. He wanted to be everyone’s friend and he decided the way he would connect with each employee was by being funny. He convinced himself that if he was the funniest person in the room then we would be drawn to him; and if we were drawn to him then we would respect him. The problem was he wasn’t funny. Because humor didn’t come naturally to him, he was forever on the prowl looking for material. This meant that the employees he was working so hard to connect with were also the source of his humor. He picked on personal things about each person and made fun of them. Because wit wasn’t his gift, his delivery of the offensive joke made it even more repulsive. The employees were united together, but united against him. We tried to have each other’s back. We covered for each other’s mistakes because mistakes were definitely going to be made fun of. We complimented and encouraged each other like crazy, trying to build each other up from his destructive humor. We decided the guy was an arrogant jerk and anyone who could found another job and left immediately.
Then Jackie was hired. After a few shifts together, we started to pull her aside and try to “prep” her for dealing with this guy. We warned her that he thinks he’s funny but he’s actually really mean. A few weeks into this new gig some of us coworkers were hanging out after work and recapping the day, the way you do when you don’t actually have anything else in common to talk about. That’s when Jackie confessed to us that she was this guy’s niece. At first we thought she was the mole and was going to report back all our complaints. But the longer we let her talk, the more we realized she was on our side. She was equally offended by him…but she also adamantly protested that this isn’t how he really is in real life. It turned out that he had a dry personality (which we knew) and he rarely cracked jokes outside of work. He was intimidated by a bunch of high school kids and thought he needed to be funny and cool or we would not like him or respect him. Jackie shared with us that while he wasn’t funny, he was the most caring person she knew.
Looking back on this experience I often wonder why he didn’t lead with his caring personality. While it might not feel “cool”, what teenager working nights and weekends during high school wouldn’t want to work for a boss who cares about them personally? He thought humor trumped caring and he was willing to bet his leadership on it. Because humor wasn’t his gift, everyday working for him was a mixture of hurt feelings and questioned abilities. What if he had embraced his “uncool” gift of caring for people? How would the stories of the teen years be different for my coworkers if we had one more caring adult in our lives?
Here’s the thing: God distributes the gifts.
We don’t get to pick. When we try to leverage what we don’t have we miss out on the lives God wants us to touch. The best version of our story is one where we use the gifts we have, regardless how uncool they feel. Your gift might not feel fun or cool or useful. Maybe your gift even feels awkward. It doesn’t really matter how it feels to you; the rest of us need you to show up and play the role only you can play. Even if it’s awkward. My prayer for you is that you become exactly who God created you to be.