When I talk about the importance of having a sense of humor to be an effective leader, one of the first questions I often get asked is, “But I’m not funny. What do I do?”
Let’s be clear: I’m NOT talking about being the office clown or telling jokes all day, or even being funny.
What I am talking about is the need for leaders to embrace the spontaneous humor that happens every day at work, and about not being a roadblock to the humor that naturally occurs. Too many leaders suck the fun out of a work environment by being overly rigid or by micromanaging or even blatantly squashing any semblance of fun that arises naturally.
In other words, step number one to leading effectively with humor is don’t be a killjoy! Even it is contrary to your personality style, leaders need to appreciate the value of humor in the workplace, which sometimes means allowing people who have more outgoing personalities than you do to flourish in the workplace and utilize their skills, passion and creativity to help foster a great work environment.
The second key to using humor effectively, especially as a leader, is to be yourself. If you trying using humor that just isn’t you, employees will see through it and your use of humor may even backfire because it will be viewed as a cynical ploy to engage employees.
There’s a reason that so much emphasis is placed on “authentic leadership” these days-because it matters! Authenticity builds trust. And trust is a key value in an successful workplace. And since we are never more real that when we share our sense of humor, humor can help us come across as more real, more authentic, more human and hence more trustworthy—as long as the humor you use reflects and shows off the real you!
The third and final key is to not be afraid to laugh at your own missteps. Laughing at yourself will help keep you humble, will make you more approachable and sends a powerful message throughout a workplace. Laughing at yourself can set a workplace tone that helps people feel more at ease, that helps people to take greater creative risks and encourages others to laugh at themselves—thus ensuring, perhaps, that costly mistakes don’t get repeated or swept under the rug!
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