Why Top Leaders use Humor in their Leadership Skills

why leaders use humor

Why do the top leaders use humor in their leadership skills?  Why is it that the most inspiring leaders typically also have a sense of humor?

I spent over a year researching and analyzing the psychology of humor in the workplace and specifically why and how leaders use humor as part of their leadership style. You can checkout the full postgraduate research study here. The key takeaways were that the top leaders understand the power of humor and use humor as part of their leadership style because it benefits them and their team in many ways.

5 Reasons why the Top Leaders use Humor in their Leadership Skills

1) Leaders use humor to enjoy their work

Leaders use humor as part of their leadership skills to enjoy their work more. When a leader uses humor in their leadership skills, it builds deeper relationships, increases their personal likability, and improves their team’s job satisfaction. Humor also minimizes status differences and can defuse certain tensions, which also helps everyone enjoy their work more.

2) Leaders use humor to signal confidence and high emotional intelligence

Leaders use humor as part of their leadership skills to signal confidence and emotional intelligence to their team (and all external followers). A leader that uses humor in their leadership skills shows that they have things under control enough that they prioritize humor and happiness. Think of it this way, if your team lead was too busy to smile once a day, would you think the company is doing well? Leaders use humor in their leadership skills to reassure their team that they have enough confidence, control and time to manage stressful situations at work.

3) Leaders use humor as a humanizing tool- the Pratfall Effect

Leaders use humor as part of their leadership skills to humanize themselves in the eyes of others – ie the Pratfall Effect. The Pratfall Effect is a psychological phenomenon that claims we distance ourselves from people who appear to be perfect. We are significantly more attracted to competent people who appear to have a minor, relatable flaw. So, the everyday hardworking employee will feel more connected to the leader who uses some light humor in the workplace.

4) Leaders use humor to be more memorable

Leaders use humor in their leadership skills to be more memorable (and not tuned out or forgotten). A sense of humor has been studied to be the most important factor in employees forming impressions of their supervisors. Leaders who use humor remain memorable for longer because people are more likely to remember previous events that are interjected with them smiling or laughing.

5) Leaders use humor to get a view into a group’s norms and values

Leaders use humor as part of their leadership skills to learn more about a group’s norms and values. What people find funny changes over time, based on the people and environment. Humor can be seen as a window into a group’s norms, values, freedom of expression and what people deem acceptable today. A leader can use humor in their leadership skills to learn more about their employees and form a deeper relationship.

Next Step for Leaders who want to use more Humor

We at Humor That Works believe humor is a skill and that it can be learned.  So, if you would like to initiate more humor in your leadership style, a great place to start is our 101 Funny Work Jokes for the Joke of the Day. Just keep practicing, and over time your humor skills will improve.

If you would like to have a brainstorming session with us and learn our latest tips and tricks, contact us to setup a Humor Strategy Call.


what is your humor persona?

Humor is a skill that can be learned. And when used correctly, it is a superpower that can be your greatest asset for building a happier, healthier and more productive life.  See for yourself...

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