Tip #859: Humor and Leadership Success

There is little success where there is little laughter.” Andrew Carnegie

Years ago, as I was preparing to go into an interview, a co-worker warned me not to make any jokes. Apparently, the supervisor conducting the interview had no sense of humor. Realizing that I didn’t want to work somewhere where humor was stifled, I was my usual joke-cracking self in the interview. I didn’t get the job.

I’ve always valued my ability to use humor in my training programs. It relaxes the participants and makes for a comfortable and creative learning environment. It never occurred to me that humor is also a powerful leadership trait.

Professors Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas of Stanford University have studied the impact of humor on leadership success. They found that leaders who use humor build stronger cultures, unleash more creativity, and even negotiate better deals. Organizations that incorporate humor are more resilient because humor during stressful situations releases oxytocin, which facilitates social bonding and increases trust.

Humor also enhances problem-solving skills, defuses tension elevates moods, fosters better communication, and improves cooperation and empathy. It increases feelings of comfort and connection, which improves morale, productivity, and engagement.

Appropriate humor is uplifting, targeting the speaker or a common enemy, which can be as benign as a software program. Displays of appropriate humor raise perceptions of a leader’s confidence and competence.

Aaker and Bagdonas have developed a humor typology that includes four dominant humor styles. Stand-ups are natural entertainers who aren’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers to get a laugh. Sweethearts are earnest and honest, and their humor often flies under the radar. Magnets keep things positive, warm, and uplifting, avoiding controversial or upsetting humor while radiating charisma. And Snipers are edgy, sarcastic, and nuanced, unafraid to cross lines in pursuit of a laugh.

They have a free online Humor Typology Quiz to determine your unique sense of humor. They send a report of your results, which are confidential  Conflict-averse, I’m apparently a magnet. Enjoy finding out your natural humor style at https://quiz.humorseriously.com/

May your learning be sweet- and safe.





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