How a sense of humour helps you lead more effectively

What comes to your mind when you think of a great leader? A determined, empathetic, and humble individual with a penchant for strategic leadership. Well, do you know what could enhance the effectiveness of such a leader? An ability to deliver all of that, with a touch of humour. 

As a quality, humour makes you likeable. As a leadership competency, it allows you to inspire and engage your team.  Several studies corroborate that leaders with a sense of humour bring tangible business benefits in terms of the effectiveness and efficiency of employees. Leaders transform their work culture by using the simple tool of humour.

Bring serious change by not taking everything too seriously

By design, laughter allows people to bond and feel closer. It establishes a sense of better cohesion in teams, which is especially relevant today, with many teams working virtually. The absence of physical interaction can be offset by teams bonding over shared jokes, evolving their relationship from transactional to human. 

A work culture that embraces humour and conviviality alleviates the issues related to stress and prevents burnout. A leader who uses humour, a well-established coping technique, skilfully, assists their team in developing their resilience and functioning well under pressure. Such a leadership style can be a huge motivator and relates to direct benefits for team members through higher job satisfaction, improved productivity, higher employee morale, and fostering creativity and innovation.

Humour demonstrates the emotional intelligence and presence of mind of the leaders, enabling them to better empathize with their team members. Wouldn’t you wish to reach out to such a leader with your issues, knowing you could depend on them? This key quality may make the difference that enables you to win over the trust and confidence of your team, making you appear more approachable to them.

Backed by scientific proof

According to studies done by top business schools such as MIT, Wharton, and the London School of Business, laughter brings a host of benefits. It relieves stress and boredom and helps you become more creative and collaborative. A study published in the reputable journal Social Behaviour and Personality, states that people regard leaders with a sense of humour as 27% more inspirational and respectable than those who don't crack jokes.

And this is not just notional, there is a science to it. Imagine you are a leader, usually seen as infallible in the eyes of your team members. This idea of perfection also distances you from your team members. But, if you make a tiny, trivial mistake, it makes them like you more, because they can relate more to you. This socio-psychological effect is called Pratfall Effect. Having a way with humour creates the same effect. Essentially, it makes your team members like you more, allowing you to be memorable to them. A sense of humour also helps leaders with the retention effect. More employees tend to remember leaders who keep them entertained.

So, the benefits of humour at work cannot be ignored. It’s very much an indispensable leadership trait.

Caution: Use this tool intelligently

In a workplace, there has to be a certain limit to the amount of humour you can bring.

When it comes to leaders and the corporate world, the permissible area is strictly limited to ‘light humour’. You should know that you are not in the business of comedy. Your aim should be to break the tension in workplaces, have a good emotional connection with your employees, and develop the trait of being dependable while facilitating open communication. Admittedly, not every leader comes with a good sense of humour. But if you look at successful leaders, most of them possess this trait.

Thus, when we talk about where the limits of workplace humour should be, it should be in a perfect middle ground – neither mean nor self-deprecating. Your humour must never hurt another person; it should always aim to make them feel better. This means you should have the ability to properly measure the level of tolerance of your team members and use authentic humour based on your own experiences to help connect well with them.

Keep it natural and organic, and witness the power of humour in transforming your workplace relationships!

This article was first published on Fortune India

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