Leadership: There’s something funny going on here

Leadership books, articles and research all agree on the obvious and overt characteristics of high performers: vision, team building, curiosity, positive risk taking, et cetera, but there are also unspoken or more covert skills, traits and knowledge areas that coincide with success at the top. Throughout my years of qualitative and quantitative research I have found that one of these characteristics is “sense of humor.” 

My colleague Dr. Jim Houran recently wrote about this topic in fun anticipation of April Fools’ Day. Leadership is not all about a serious, hard-driving attitude. Most people never really contemplate it, but indeed, there’s something funny about leadership.

Here are some thoughts:

  • Put-down humor is aggressive and a form of bullying.
  • Self-deprecating humor in small doses is fine, but putting yourself down is no way to win friends.
  • Bonding humor is a great way for groups to get close and can reduce tension.
  • Laughing-at-life humor allows leaders to be more human and not take themselves too seriously.
  • Humor can increase relaxation, creativity and problem-solving capability.
  • Humor can reduce stress, depression and tension.
  • Humor can elevate mood and increase self-esteem and energy.
  • Humor can benefit team-building, cohesiveness and likability.
  • Telling a good joke is not necessarily the key — it’s when, how and where to say it.