Leadership, Sherlock and Humor – the Mystery Connection

Life Can Be a Mystery, but Mystery May Be the Secret to Humor… and Leadership!

I love mysteries. I love to read them. I love to watch them on the screen – big and small.  Confession time, I often find myself reading thrillers and mysteries instead of the stack of other books I should be reading.


Sherlock solving a mystery

There’s something irresistible about a mystery and the process of experiencing something artfully concealed that becomes revealed.

To be a good mystery, the element revealed must be a genuine surprise — something I truly didn’t see coming.

Then it dawned on me.  My favorite type of humor is based in mystery.  I agree with philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer that “humor depends on the pleasure of finding unexpected connections between ideas.”

More recently, YouTuber Bo Burnham stated “For me, if you distill comedy down, it is surprise and the unexpected. That has to be it on its most base level, in any form.”

Some of my biggest laughs watching a movie or a show or listening to standup has come from clever connections.

It seems mystery can speak to the core of our being.   Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise.  After all, the stuff of faith is one of life’s biggest mysteries.  As Paul illuminates in 1 Corinthians:

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”

Perhaps what we love about mysteries is that they also resonate with what it is we’re on Earth to do. As Rick Warren asks with his important book: What On Earth Am I Here For?


Leaders can help a person or even an organization find their purpose.  Many books and articles have been written on leadership, but I like a point that U.S. Navy SEAL Commander and author Rorke Denver recently made.   He insists as a leader “90% of your behavior should be predictable.” If an individual crosses the line, the outcome is known and expected. If the person does well, they are rewarded.   However, he encourages leaders to “throw your people curve balls 10% of the time.”  Do something unexpected, particularly if it demonstrates servanthood.


So life has many mysteries, but a mystery is good for a laugh, a leader and a literary work.


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