The best leaders keep the world in perspective. They see the bright side of things. They can find humor in most circumstances. They can laugh at the absurdity life often offers. Humor eases tension and takes the bite out of tough situations.
A sense of humor draws followers to the leader. It helps followers feel safe and energizes and activates their minds. Humor also plays a larger role as an essential element of effective living. Health professionals agree that those with a sense of humor have a greater sense of being and belonging. That feeling gets communicated and creates the rapport that attracts others to the leader. Some people say that humor must be limited within the serious business of work. Yet people laugh most often about the things that are most serious to them. Think of all the jokes you have heard about money, taxes, and even death.
Stay within your style and focus on topics that delight you. This means overcoming the limiting belief that “I’m not funny.” Everyone gets a tickle out of something. For example, bring to mind the somber image of Alan Greenspan. Imagine him saying, “Inflation is what lets you live in a more expensive neighborhood without having to move.” Share what tickles you and let people see your sense of humor. Don’t worry about never getting jokes, not remembering funny stories, or not spinning a good yarn.
You don’t have to tell jokes to demonstrate your sense of humor. You do not have to try to be funny. You do not have to be a great raconteur. Just talk about topics that interest you and reveal your sense of playfulness. I knew a corporate attorney who everyone thought had absolutely no sense of humor. I found out the attorney was an avid Red Sox baseball fan. Since I enjoy baseball too, I asked him about the Red Sox once. He went on for twenty minutes about his love for the team. Several of his comments were about humorous incidents at Red Sox games. I laughed loud and hard at some of his comments.
Respond to others’ quips and cleverness. Your sense of humor is conveyed when you engage other people and react to them. Simply restating what someone else said, with a different tone or with a link to another idea, can cause a chuckle or create a second round of humor. What if your attempt at humor bombs? Acknowledge the bomb. Have at hand a few ready-made recovery lines to stop the flop. George H. Bush certainly never created the impression that he was one of American polities’ stand-up funny-men. Yet he demonstrated a good sense of humor when he flubbed a line during his 1988 presidential campaign. Bush said, “We’ve had triumphs. We’ve made mistakes. We’ve had sex.” “Sex” was the tongue-tied replacement for “setbacks.” Bush recovered easily from his flub by saying, “I feel like the javelin thrower who won the toss and elected to receive.” When you do bomb, and everyone does, say or do something rather than try to ignore the bomb.