A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

We’ve all experienced and benefited from humor. Whether we attended a comedy club, watched a funny movie or just poked fun at life experiences with family, friends or co-workers. Personally, I love funny movies. I laugh out loud and feel lighter at the end of the movie.

Jacquelyn Smith, Forbes Staff wrote an article on the subject of humor at work titled,

10 Reasons Why Humor Is A Key To Success At Work 

  • People will enjoy working with you
  • Humor is a potent stress buster
  • It is humanizing
  • It puts others at ease
  • Humor’s a key ingredient in creative thinking
  • It builds trust
  • It boosts morale
  • Humor makes you more approachable
  • Humor can allow your company to stand out
  • It can make you more productive

Leadership Tool

With all these benefits, why don’t more leaders use humor as a leadership tool?

Some of us, just don’t think we are funny. Others may be concerned about insulting someone. Clearly, that wouldn’t be good. First time leaders may avoid humor saying, “I want to be taken seriously.”

I believe there may be another reason. We just don’t understand humor and as a result we don’t know how to use it. Wikipedia identifies four types of humor.

Affiliative humor is used to enhance one’s relationships with others in a benevolent, positive manner. Individuals often use this form of humor as a way to charm and amuse others, ease tension among others, and improve relationships. They are often spontaneous in their joke telling, frequently participate in witty banter, and enjoy laughing with others.

 Self-enhancing humor relates to having a good-natured attitude toward life, having the ability to laugh at yourself, your circumstances and the idiosyncrasies of life in a constructive, non-detrimental manner. Individuals use it to enhance the self in a benevolent, positive manner.

Aggressive humor is potentially detrimental towards others. This type of humor is characterized by the use of sarcasm, put-downs, teasing, criticism, ridicule, and other types of humor used at the expense of others.

Self-defeating humor is characterized by the use of potentially detrimental humor towards the self in order to gain approval from others.

Applying Humorous Leadership

Clearly, aggressive or self-defeating humor would not be an effective leadership tool.

I believe that as leaders we can and should use affiliative and self-enhancing humor to maximize the effectiveness of our leadership.

Go ahead, be a humorous leader. People will enjoy working with you; you’ll be a stress buster who can humanize leadership and put others at ease. You’ll be a more creative thinker, build trust, improve moral with your team, be more approachable, more productive and you’ll have more fun at work.

Sounds like terrific leadership to me.

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