Humor – A Vital Leadership Skill

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done.”  Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th President of the United States)

Having humor in the workplace is crucial to leadership success and to developing a positive, even fun, workplace culture.  There are two parts to humor that every leader must have:

  • Good humor
  • A sense of humor

Let me explain:

Good Humor

Good humor requires us to be courteous, upbeat, and positive even when angry or when things may be terrible at the company or, more likely, at home.  This is difficult, but essential.  It requires putting on a “leadership game face” even when we do not feel like talking to other people, let alone smiling.

The team takes clues from its leaders.  An angry, sour, annoyed leader will often bring the whole team down around him or her, even when these emotions come from someplace far removed from the office.

A Sense of Humor

“Humor, used skillfully, greases the management wheels.  It reduces hostility, deflects criticism, relieves tension, improves morale, and helps communicate difficult messages.”  Fabio Sala

As the quote above describes, humor is an important leadership tool in creating a more positive work environment.  Humor also humanizes the leader taking him or her out of the leadership rule and making him or her appear to be just a normal person who is pleasant to work with and be around. 

Of course, humor needs to avoid the “Third Rails” of sex, race, sexual orientation, nationality, etc.  But, a good joke or humorous comment or, often better, a humorous self-deprecating comment (but only if we have already established our competence and credibility) from the leader lightens the atmosphere in the office and makes the leader appear to be more human.

Use Sarcasm with Caution

In small doses, sarcasm can be funny and effective.  It can make a point about the absurdity of a situation.  It can allow us to be seen as one of the team.  But, sarcasm can hurt and is all too often negative and a way to be nasty without seeming nasty.  Such sarcasm goes against the goal of creating a positive and enjoyable workplace. Leader beware.

And Some Humor

In a blog about humor, we have to inject a little humor.  Below, see some humorous, maybe silly, maybe insightful, quotes to share:

“Outside of a dog, a book is a man’s best friend.  Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.”  Groucho Marx

“There’s one way to find out if a man is honest – ask him. If he says, ‘Yes’, you know he is a crook.  Groucho Marx

“I intend to live forever.  So far, so good.”  Steven Wright

“If I agreed with you, we would both be wrong.”  Steven Tyler

“If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name at a Swiss bank.”  Woody Allen

“There are some people who, if they don’t already know, you can’t tell them.”  Yogi Berra

“We’re lost, but we’re making good time.”  Yogi Berra

“People sometimes stumble over the truth, but usually they pick themselves up and hurry about their business.”  Winston Churchill

“The key to being a good manager is keeping the people who hate me away from those who are still undecided.”    Casey Stengel

“There are three signs of old age: loss of memory … I forget the other two.”  Red Skelton

“’Tis better to be silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”  Abraham Lincoln

“Americans who travel abroad for the first time are often shocked to discover that, despite all the progress that has been made in the last 30 years, many foreign people still speak in foreign languages.”  Dave Barry

“If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be ‘meetings.”  Dave Barry

“I believe in looking reality straight in the eye and denying it.”  Garrison Keillor

“Sincerity – if you can fake it, you’ve got it made.”  George Burns

“It infuriates me to be wrong when I know I’m right.”  Moliere

Before you criticize someone, you should walk a mile in their shoes.  That way, when you criticize them, you’re a mile away and you have their shoes.”  Jack Handey

“Man invented language to satisfy his deep need to complain.”  Lily Tomlin

“Time’s fun when you’re having flies.”  Kermit the Frog

“If a man comes at you carrying a knife, you can be pretty sure he has a fork in the other hand.”  Danish Proverb

“What good is happiness.  You can’t buy money with it.”  Henny Youngman

“Marge, don’t discourage the boy.  Weaseling out of things is important to learn.  It’s what separates us from the animals… Except the weasel.”  Homer Simpson

“That’s a problem for future Homer.  Man, I don’t envy that guy.” Homer Simpson


About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
This entry was posted in Leadership, Personal Success, Team / People and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Humor – A Vital Leadership Skill

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great one David! Very, very true and I love the quips – you can’t go wrong with Wright, Handy and Berra and I have a t-shirt with the library quote 😉

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