3 Ways Humor Can Make You a Better Leader

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Michael Scott, the king of funny bosses on The Office, once said, “Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.” It’s just one of his many famous quotes, but we all know deep down inside how different the workplace can be when we have leaders we can laugh with and not worry about being serious around them all of the time.

“I want work to be enjoyable,” states Reshma Gopaldas, vice president of video for SHE Media and host of the Son of a Binge podcast. “We spend the most time at our jobs, so the teams we put together, and how we get along, is an important part of your skill set.”

“The best aspect of management that I have learned is connecting with people,” she adds. “And one thing that brings people together is humor.”

Here are a few ways humor and levity can help you become a better leader overall.

1Build Trust

Leaders can build camaraderie with their teams by using humor, as it often helps level out existing tensions and allows managers to provide a bit of emotion without compromising the more serious values and goals of their business. 

Gopaldas personally learned how humor can help educate and deliver information that, without it, might be difficult to digest. “All the women in my family, myself included, have had breast cancer — and laughing about it has saved us,” she tells CircleAround. “They may not be the best jokes, but they are the breast way to make it through challenging times.”

Humor allows Gopaldas to feel open and honest with her teams without getting too personal or too demanding. It’s helped define a pleasant balance and build trust within the workplace overall.

2Drive Performance

Levity in the workplace can also help employees feel more relaxed, which ultimately helps boost productivity. 

In an interview for CNBC, Sophie Scott, director of the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London, explains how laughter “helps to reduce the level of adrenaline and cortisol in the body, which are known as the anxiety and stress hormones. … You get an increased uptake of endorphins when you’ve been laughing, and those are the body’s natural painkillers.”

Teams that integrate more humor into their everyday workflow form close connections as well. “When people are happy, they produce better work,” Gopaldas tells CircleAround. “It’s simple and something we as a world do not focus on enough.”

3Open Up Creative Possibilities

Naomi Bagdonas, lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the co-author of Humor, Seriously, has spent much of her career studying how humor can impact the workplace and leadership within it. She considers humor to be a “secret weapon” in both business and personal settings, and now helps train others to engage with it in more creative ways.

Through research she and her partners have conducted, she found that management-level employees with a sense of humor may potentially be seen as 27% more motivating and admired by their teams. Conversely, their employees are likely to be 15% more engaged, and may be twice as likely to solve challenges with more creativity than they would be without having a solid foundation injected with a few laughs every now and then.

The Bottom Line

Leadership can and should be fun, and adding humor to your professional toolkit can work wonders in the workplace. Understanding how humor can impact the work you do, and the teams you work with, will ultimately make you a stronger manager and allow your teams to gain trust in you, be more productive, and feel better at work overall.

Tags: humor, Tips from Women Executives, Women in Business

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Written By

Katka Lapelosová

Katka is a writer from New York City, currently living in Belgrade, Serbia. See Full Bio

CircleAround will make financial distributions to benefit current Girl Scouts: the next generation of trailblazers who will CircleAround after us. So CircleAround for inspiration, and CircleAround the leaders of tomorrow. CircleAround is owned by One GS Media, a subsidiary of Girl Scouts of the USA.

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