sense of humor

3 Big Reasons Humor Benefits Your Leadership

A Robert Half International survey found that 91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement. While 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job. Another study by Bell Leadership Institute found that the two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.

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

Laughter and play are essential components for resilience. When it comes to leadership in complex times, a sense of humor ranks up there with strategic thinking and superb communication skill.

Arguably, the greatest leader of our country was a man known for his eloquence, his humility, and his dedication to the people he served: Abraham Lincoln.

91% of executives believe a sense of humor is important for career advancement. While 84% feel that people with a good sense of humor do a better job.

But he was also noted for his ability to use homespun stories and self-deprecating humor as a way of winning over opponents, making a point, garnering followers, and handling the enormous pressure at the height of the war that tore this country apart. It was in the darkest of times that Lincoln was heard to remark,“ if I didn’t laugh, I would cry.”

Humor comes from the Latin word for ”fluid”. In the Middle Ages, humor was believed to be an energy related to a bodily fluid or an emotional state. This energy determined your health and disposition. A bad humor was just that: bad energy. Negative energy repels. Good humor equates with positive energy. Positive energy attracts.

Do not leaders need to attract and retain talent? Customers and clients? Think about the gloom cast across an office when someone is in a bad humor or how good humor can change an environment.

Here are four leadership benefits derived from humor.

1. Laughter Affords Perspective

sense of humor

Consider the Ben and Jerry’s “graveyard”. This company has created tombstones in a corporate landscape that make one laugh over failed ice cream flavors. Such a move encourages risk-taking—obviously within reason.

Here is the epithet for the flavor called MAKIN’ WHOOPIE PIE:

Making Whoopie Pie

Though we sure loved

Makin’Whoopie Pie,

And you loved eatin’ the stuff

After a while we all had to admit

It just wasn’t Whoopie enough

2002-2003

The two most desirable traits in leaders were a strong work ethic and a good sense of humor.

2. Laughter Heals Individuals and can Heal an Organization

The healing power of humor has been noted since before Biblical times. However it’s only been in the last few decades that science has caught up with what we’ve long suspected to be true: humor heals.

Anatomy of an Illness was the best-selling, groundbreaking classic by Norman Cousins on combating life-threatening illness through humor and patient participation in care. Anatomy of an Illness was the first book by a patient that spoke to our current interest in taking charge of our own health. It started the revolution in patients working with their doctors and using humor to boost their bodies’ capacity for healing.

Organizations are made up of individuals, and significant change and turmoil can also make the entire organization feel sick. Laughter is a welcome relief.

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

Recently, I was part of an all-hands employee summit for an organization that had been through huge upheavals, cutbacks, and changes in senior leadership. The CEO began by poking fun at himself. Different departments created fun videos around the song Happy and senior managers rewrote the words to The Lego Movie and then presented a dance they had choreographed. Gales of laughter bounced off the walls. You could tell that fun, play, and laughter had begun the healing process.

Consider this: in such turmoil you want trust, intelligent strategies, and the ability to approach managers. People with a good sense of humor (not cynical nor sarcastic) are viewed as more intelligent, approachable and more trust worthy. Voila. Leadership wins.

3. Laughter and Play Spark Creativity

The ticketing machines in airports began as a result of a Southwest Airline ground crew having a party, laughing, and trying to figure a way to process more people quickly. Certainly, you could not find a more playful leader than Herb Kelleher, chair and founder of Southwest Airlines. His insistence on play created a culture that had people literally standing in lines outside headquarters for job interviews. That’s a site not seen at other airlines. Hiring plus a simple business strategy has made Southwest Airlines the most consistently profitable airlines on record.

Chade-Meng Tan is one of Google’s earliest engineers and holds the title of Jolly Good Fellow for this company noted for creativity! Talk about solving a complex problem with humor: Meng has taken on the assignment to “enlighten minds, open hearts, create world peace.” You can Google that, too!

People with a good sense of humor (not cynical nor sarcastic) are viewed as more intelligent, approachable and more trust worthy. Voila. Leadership wins.

Self-leadership is also enhanced with humor.

4. Helping Us Cope

According to neurohumorist. Karyn Buxman RN MS, and founder of Levity Works, “Humor acts as a healthy coping mechanism. It relieves anxiety and tension, acts as an outlet for hostility, and lightens the heaviness related to loss, whether it be a relationship, a job, even death.”

Buxman, also a member of The Resiliency Group, believes that humor not only allows us to cope with the ups and downs of day-to-day events but, by exercising our humor muscle, we can strengthen our ability to cope when we’re dealt a more severe blow.

“Like any habit, humor can be practiced and intentional,“ states Buxman. “You hone this habit by purposefully making humor a part of your daily routine, just like going to the gym or getting enough sleep. Seek humor from others and then pay it forward.”

 

 

Since founding McDargh Communications & The Resiliency Group Eileen McDargh has helped organizations and individuals transform the life of their business and the business of their life through conversations that matter and connections that count. Her programs are content rich, interactive, provocative and playful—even downright hilarious. She draws upon practical business know-how, life's experiences and years of consulting to major national and international organizations that have ranged from global pharmaceuticals to the US Armed Forces, from health care associations to religious institutions. She is the author of five books, including Gifts from the Mountain: Simple Truths for Life's Complexities ,a Benjamin Franklin Gold Award winner. A training film based on this book was awarded the Silver Telly, the highest award for commercial productions. Her latest book was written to help everyone who is stretched too thin by competing demands My Get Up & Go Got Up & Went. As a business author and commentator, she’s appeared on network news, on radio programs and in business journals and in major metropolitan newspapers.

  • 9j0i98uuyh7yh

    this is so soul-ful

  • Mary Kay Morrison

    What a great article. Do consider attending the AATH (Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humor) international conference in Mesa/Phoenix April 7-10th. You will find amazing networking with other humor/laughter professionals. Do consider enrolling in our acclaimed, groundbreaking CHP (Certified Humor Professional) program while at the conference. There are also options for CEU and grad credit. Do not miss this opportunity to learn and contribute to the field of humor studies. http://www.aath.org/

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