Businessman and author Paul Hawken said it best, “We lead by being human. We do not lead by being corporate, by being professional or by being institutional.”
That may be why leadership experts like John Maxwell understand the value of a good laugh at their expense.
The best leaders know that humor and humility go hand in hand. They act to keep their feet on the ground and their egos in check. The timely and appropriate use of humor is an asset to any leader.
Assuming your sense of humor passes the timely and appropriate test, here are 3 reasons why you should make sure that humor is part of your leadership toolkit:
1. Humor fosters creativity. When you’re the leader, everyone is watching you for problem solving cues. If you approach business problems with furrowed brows and rapid-fire questions, you set the tone for a culture of fear. Cut down on the intimidation factor by using humor. “Humor is a key ingredient in creative thinking,” says Michael Kerr, President of Humor at Work. “It helps people play with ideas, lower their internal critic, and see things in new ways.” You’ll can find Kerr’s formula for how HA + HA = AHA! in this short clip.
2. Humor improves health. Today’s business challenges require executives to face tough situations with greater frequency than ever. When stress becomes a part of your routine for an extended period, it can lead to illness and chronic disease. In fact, research by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention shows that up to 90 percent of all illness and disease is stress related. The good news is, humor is the physiological opposite of stress. It lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation, reduces muscle tension, and boosts your immune system. Find out more about the short- and long-term benefits of humor here.
3. Humor improves retention. When a team laughs together, it facilitates a sense of community and helps to create a positive corporate culture. It also helps to create a shared history. In an interview with Businessweek, University of Missouri-Columbia professor Chris Robert says that humor “enhances the degree to which you feel bonded and part of the group in the workplace.” When employees have positive emotions about their job, they’re more likely to stay. As Robert states, “You may get a better job offer, but it will take more to draw you away when you like where you work and the people you work with.”
Things will go wrong. The best leaders find the humor in the situation to keep things light and moving forward. Browbeating others is not as powerful as helping them have a good attitude and a little levity.
Question: Have you used humor to diffuse a stressful situation at work? What were the results?