Sense of Humor A Great Leadership Characteristic

Being funny, breaking up the gridlock of seriousness, not taking oneself too seriously in the work place is a good thing.  As the old saying goes, “laughter is the best medicine.”  According to helpguide.org, a trusted site for mental and emotional health, laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress.  Sound like something you need in your organization?  In an era of employee disengagement, high pressure work environments and hyper-focused bosses, I certainly think so.  Even as an Army leader of combat-bound units, I never took myself too seriously.  I am a klutz who trips over things and accidently scrapes and cuts himself when doing something manually.  I have this running joke with my wife when I am doing something manual around the house where I say, in a very matter-of-fact tone, “I’m bleeding.”  She always shakes her head and laughs.  I’m not the smartest man in the room so I always joke about how I graduated college with a 2.6 GPA.  I like to poke fun at people and love it when they come back at me.  In my 27 years leading soldiers and caring for families I found that light-hearted humor always broke the tension present in many a meeting.  I wore the rank of colonel and held command positions.  There existed this stigma that I might be the hard, boisterous, angry Army officer, the one you see often in movies.  I needed to break that and humor was my way.  I had numerous leadership characteristics such as patience, empowerment and integrity to name a few.  These characteristics will help any leader achieve greatness.  Whatever yours, add humor to the list and watch your organization flourish. 

Humor has its place but there are times in the workplace when it is inappropriate.  As I share in my book, I had to temper my sense of humor which I used when I was not comfortable or confident about a topic, especially in a very serious profession like the Army.  Only through deliberate self-awareness was I able to overcome this weakness.  It is important to keep it clean.  Indeed, any humor that degrades or offends people is not humor.  I always wanted to let my guard down and joke with people but I would be the first to address anything which offended a person or group.  In your organization or in your small team, give humor a stage.  Start meetings off with a joke, watch a funny cat video or tell a funny story related to what the group is about to discuss.  Hold meetings and events in places which foster fun like a local brewery or an amusement center.  Let your own guard down.  Confess a weakness and tell a funny story about yourself in the spirit of vulnerability and transparency.  Be the leader who knows when to insert humor and when it has no place.  Be the leader who introduces humor, helps people let their guard down yet addresses it when it offends.  You will apply several leadership characteristics on your leadership journey.  Include humor.  I’ve seen the tangible effects of humor in a variety of environments and can tell you, from experience, it is great medicine for any organization.