Leadership: Is Humor the Secret Sauce?

If you are a new manager, is humor part of your leadership toolkit? According to an article in Psychology Today…

“…in a study by the McClelland Centre for Research and Innovation, it was found that outstanding executives use humor more than twice as often as the so-called average executives (237 percent more, to be exact). Furthermore, when the study examined executives’ compensation, there was a direct correlation between the use of humor and the size of their compensation. The funnier they were, the more they made. This is why Steve Jobs’ keynote speech launching the iPhone clocked in at .6 laughs per minute—not good enough for the Tonight Show, but better than most new comics. For the innovation manager and brainstorm facilitator, humor and laughter are effective tools for strengthening human connection and controlling group behavior.”


Ok, so you are not the next Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel, but maybe your comic relief can help.

Let me first put aside the drawbacks for many who may be comically challenged.

  1. The subject matter needs to be suitable for prime time, ‘G’ rated. There really are only a few work sites where the X-rated material gets legitimate laughs. I suggest don’t go there.
  2. Stay away from controversial topics; race, religion, politics, etc. You have no idea what faction may be lurking within your team. There is no point in turning them off to your style.
  3. NEVER use humor as a passive-aggressive measure to get some point across about a team member. Subtle mention of names, behaviors, or actions masked by humor do not go over very well.

Now, all of that said, back to the study. It is clear that the more successful executives do in fact use humor to improve their communication. I have attended a number of meetings where it was presumed, going in, that the topic of the meeting was going to be tense. Yet when the leader opened with a smart, effective quip about the situation, it helped diffuse the tension and allow better communication to flow. I have resorted to this tactic myself on more than one occasion.

A well timed funny can do a lot of good. It has often been said, “Laughter is good for the soul.” Why not apply that to business as well?

[reminder]What’s your favorite ice breaker?[/reminder]

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