Leaders Need Sense Of Humor

There are many aspects of leadership that a potential leader can generally be trained to be proficient in. Two aspects or qualities that are far less trainable are personal integrity, and possessing a sense of humor. Much attention has been paid to the first of these qualities, integrity (or lack thereof) by myself and others, but far less emphasis (or attention) has been cast upon the importance of a leader having a sense of humor.There are a number of reasons that it is extremely helpful for a leader to have a sense of humor:1. Humor often relieves stress or tension, especially the inherent stress that accompanies leadership. During the course of leadership, there are many tense circumstances that various individuals handle in a number of ways. Stress has been known to cause physical problems for some, and emotional trauma for others. Humor can relax a leader so that he can step away from the challenge, and perhaps look at the circumstance in a different perspective.2. Effective leaders must be able to laugh at themselves, so as not to take themselves too seriously. Many leaders, for example, are constantly striving for some sort of expert guidance, which often is simply a way for them to delude themselves sufficiently to procrastinate. Niel Bohr wrote, “An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field.” Leaders using humor such as this (or you might call it sarcasm, etc.) can often “straighten their perspective” so that they can better focus on solutions.3. Humor is a great ice breaker. That is why the greatest and most inspiring public speakers almost invariably interject humor (especially humorous anecdotes) into their presentation. Using humor in this manner relaxes the audience, and generally puts them more in the mood to listen. When I give my presentations, I often begin by saying, “Others will tell you when they begin to sit back, relax and enjoy the presentation. I disagree, and I say, “Don’t sit back, or relax, if you want to get anything from the presentation. Get involved. And don’t look down to avoid eye contact, because if you do, you’re the one I’ll pick on.” Most attendees to my presentations have told me that my sessions are the most interactive they have attended, so I guess my “warm up” gets through a little.4. Humor can also be quite effective in one to one, or small group presentations, however, it is important to know your audience and their sensitivities. Some humor is great for some circumstances, but wholly inappropriate under other circumstances. For example, Groucho Marx is credited with saying, “Only one man in a thousand is a leader of men. The other 999 follow women.”These are just a few of the benefits and considerations of why humor is vital for leadership. A leader does not have to be the funniest guy around, but can’t be perceived as being “too serious.” Those leaders with senses of humor have been amongst the most effective ones that I have met.