The Element of Surprise – Leadership lessons and the role that surprise can play

“A true leader always keeps an element of surprise up his sleeve, which others cannot grasp but which keeps his public excited and breathless.” – Charles de Gaulle

There’s some amount of enigma and mystery and magic still attached to an element of surprise, that little something that is absolutely unexpected and the element of wow that it can spring on anyone who is anticipating or not anticipating it… 

Leadership often follows a pattern and leadership routines are ridden with these and predictability kicks in. An element of surprise works best at this juncture as it throws out the pattern or predictability that’s built in. 

Let’s look at the elements of surprise in communication in context of delivery. When it comes to communication and storytelling, the element of surprise is an imperative element and can be used as a means to deliver messages effectively. Leaders can use this mechanism effectively to pass on messages and engage with their audiences in the right manner. 

Surprise can also often come to the rescue to counter competition and position the content and communication with a competitive advantage and you will see instances of this in politics and in business and could manifest as first mover advantage. From Donald Trump to Steve Jobs to our own Indian leaders, Modi to Amit Sha, have used the surprise element to their advantage on multiple instances. 

A good surprise can be tailored to make customer experience and customer delight a possibility on multiple occasions. ‘Surprise and delight’ is a thing which brands like Mercedes Benz, Kleenex and Taco Bell have used to build a better engagement and experience model for their customers. Surprise has also been used on multiple occasions to grab and retain attention especially in storytelling, marketing, presentation or any other form of communication. 

Guerrilla Marketing, with its unconventional approaches to creativity also employs surprise, shock and awe in many instances including flash mobs, billboards, social campaigns can all be crafted to amaze the customer. 

Surprise is also a great way to lace humour into communication and is an essential element of humour, from crafting punchlines to delivering humour as a release of tension and in a way that leads to laughter. 

When done right, surprise can be a great attention grabber, but there’s also a negative angle to surprise and there are possibilities of it going awry. This happens in instances when the recipient does not want to be surprised or does not like it to begin with. 

Surprise at the core of what it is, is a feeling or an emotion and when evoked right, it can truly cast a spell… 

Shreya Krishnan
Vice President - Marketing and Communications at Aon India Insurance Brokers
Shreya is a CSR Specialist and Corporate Grooming Consultant. Her interests lie in Activism, Dance, Theatre, Poetry, Blogging, Modelling, Acting. She considers herself an Earth Warrior and is an Event Anchor and Trainer. She is a Pageant Winner and public speaker.

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