Leadership has so much do to with skills that you will never learn in school. And all the degrees in the world won’t necessarily make you a great manager. According to Forbes, chief among the less valued qualities of a great leader are things like honesty, confidence, and commitment. But the most underrated leadership skill of all is one that engages at all levels, and that is a sense of humor.
Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffet once said, “I buy expensive suits. They just look cheap on me.”
Laughter isn’t just the best medicine, it’s also the secret ingredient to better leadership. Humor eases the intimidation factor that comes with managing others. It also can make bad news easier to swallow, and it’s great for team building.
An article from CBS Moneywatch offered the following seven reasons why a sense of humor is leadership’s most underrated leadership skill:
Humor is disarming. It lightens the mood, puts people at ease and cuts down on the intimidation factor that powerful leaders face with employees, customers, vendors, partners, everyone. It shows you don’t take yourself too seriously. That’s the humility factor.
It relieves tension during crises. In the corporate world, most managers and executives face a tough situation at least weekly. When there’s tension in the room, it helps you and your employees to relax, think more clearly, and make better decisions.
It softens the blow of bad news. Don’t misunderstand; if you’re announcing layoffs you probably don’t want to lead with “Two employees walk into a bar …” That said, success is a poor teacher; we learn more from failure. But you still need someone to smile and say, “Hey, life goes on, we’ll win next time. Now let’s all go get a drink.”
Humor is great for team building. For some reason, when a team laughs and has fun together it facilitates a sense of community and helps to create a cohesive corporate culture. It also helps to create a sort of communal history, as in, “Remember the time when …”
It gets people to root for you. People like folks with a sense of humor. They’re more likely to want you to succeed. Your supporters will find you more likeable and your detractors will be more likely to cut you some slack.
It places emphasis on key points. People remember stories. Dramatic anecdotes, including the comedic kind, resonate with folks.
Humor is motivating. As executives go, people learned and accomplished no doubt had some fun doing it. A sense of humor helped to keep folks motivated, especially when times were hard.
In my own career experience as a marketing and PR executive at The Walt Disney Company working under the leadership of Michael Eisner and Frank Wells, and detailed in my new book Inside the Disney Marketing Machine, my two leaders often showed their sense of humor. One particular “let’s not take ourselves too seriously” moments is shown in the photo to the right capturing the moment when Michael Eisner called Frank Wells out of a meeting to surprise him with a pie in the face! Why did he do it? Just for fun.