Leading with Levity: Why Leadership and Laughter make the Best Partners

Humour is serious business. And not just for stand-up comics.

Something Sarah Blakely, Founder, and CEO of Spanx, understood well. So, she leveraged wit to gain entry into Neiman Marcus, a luxury department store chain, to expand her company. Sarah sent the head merchandiser a single shoe with a note saying -” just trying to get my foot in the door; have a minute to chat?”

And the merchandiser called her back.

That single line worked better than hundreds of emails or phone calls. It also showcased how leaders can use the power of humor to succeed.

Humour is not just a power. It’s a ‘superpower’, claims Naomi Bagdonas and Dr. Jennifer Aaker, lecturers at Stanford University, in their book ‘Humour Seriously.’ When used correctly, it can deliver miraculous results.

Humour and the big pay off

Let’s crunch some numbers.

According to a study, leaders with a sense of humor were seen as 27% more motivating and admirable than those whose humor quotient fell short. Their employees were also 15% more engaged, committed, and twice as likely to solve challenges creatively.

How does this work?
Humour and its cohort, laughter, is a great ice breaker and connector.

Leaders level the distance between themselves and their teams when they bake into their style. They become more approachable. Teams relate to them and bond better. Trust and morale jump up. Happy people work better, smarter, and with a lot of zeal.

Leaders lead from the front, andteams join the wagon with a song in the heart – now, what else do we need for a business to prosper?

Humor: Simple not easy

No matter what the numbers say, a smile is not summoned at will. Humor is a behavioral trait, not a mandate. For long, leadership has been treated as too serious a business for leaders to ease the crease on their foreheads.

Now, expecting them to smile, and smile often, chill with teams, join conversations in café, break a leg with a colleague – is more a “Ahem” than a “why not.” It all boils down to conditioning. We have been nurturing a stiff back for far too long; relaxing is a process in itself.

Few of us are born with a funny bone; most have to work at it. As infectious as it is, humor is also like any other skill. It can be picked up.

Each to their own. Pick your flavor of humor – on the face or subtle, anecdotal or on the go, loud or quiet – as long as it brings on a smile, it has its worth in gold. And, while you crack a joke, be prepared to be butt of one too. Take it easy. Join in the laughter. Be a sport and become one with your team.

True humor is a two-way street, right?

Here is an interesting instance.Some employees were sipping tea, cracking jokes, and generally gossiping. One of them got started on how his BU Head moves around with a long face, never smiles, and is absolutely unapproachable.

Right at that moment the same lady walks in. The group was caught unawares and started fumbling. And, just like that their boss broke into laughter – “well, I do smile, maybe you never noticed before, with that she pulled up a chair and joined them for tea.

Guess what happened next?
Her image underwent a radical change, and people started warming up to her. And, the trickle effect -a boost to team spirit, better productivity, and ultimately more profit for the company.

All's well that ends well

Most well know personalities, from political leaders like Abraham Lincoln to CEOs like Elon Musk today, have leveraged humor well.

At Sacumen also, we cherish open work culture, full of laughter and fun, balanced with responsible behavior and ownership. This is our recipe to make a solid and efficient team that works together, plays together, and laughs together.

Ok, enough said. Time to show and not tell. So, here you go!

What did the right eye say to the left eye?
Between you and me, something smells.

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