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If you can’t Laugh, don’t Lead

Source | LinkedIn : By Kenneth Oswin Lean

Humour as a tool in leadership is perpetually taken for granted and underutilised. Don’t we see stiff lipped, grumpy faced, always worried leaders occupy seats? – as if age and era have not yet passed by them. Unknowingly they are creating an environment of intimidation and claustrophobia. The fear of ‘the boss’, pretention of working in their presence and behaving to perfection makes the environment intensely artificial. Humour is a potent tool to unmask these artificial environments. Humour also facilitates a smart way out from deadlocks of disagreement. It makes the environment lighter and less threatening – however, by no means am I propagating a college campus in a corporate environment. Humour is also an instrument for effective communication and a great way of storytelling. Leaders can share great learnings of their past through crisp anecdotal narratives which have strong messages, deep morale and enjoyable listening.

Many organisations have fun as a value system. These organisations have understood that a culture of fun is required to celebrate ideas. Working together on serious subjects requires elements of light veined environments. Do you think army life is any less serious? Even those in uniform can share numerous instances, where fun and humour have allowed them to get over difficult enemy moments. If the men in uniform, who have one of the most stressful jobs can laugh, why not the modern day leader who has a frequent humour line dropping in their WhatsApp account?

Leaders need to learn the art of storytelling. While using humour, leaders need to make sure that it is tasteful, appropriate and well-toned in an office environment. Winning and losing are part of the game, so light heartedness may help to get the momentum going. Many leaders, who tend to be to themselves when humourless, do create a dampening environment. Service organisations like airlines, hospitality and youth centric industries use entertainment and fun to bring employees and managers together.

Churchill of the yesteryears and Obama of recent years as world leaders, have made the world smile with their humour and laugh. Yes, humour is also a sign of intelligence. So leaders with humour use it efficiently as icebreakers and relationship builders. When leaders can laugh, they find it easy to build team morale and enthusiasm. Unfortunately the world is getting a lot more serious, stiff and humourless. It’s time leadership development includes humour as an essential capability. There is a perception that leaders need to be tough and serious. They portray their toughness by being stubborn and stiff-lipped, only to communicate through an attitude of icy questioning; as if these virtues draw a perfect picture of the ideal leader. These kinds of leaders communicate bad news and receive bad news so seriously, that it tends to freeze their brains, sending cold waves around. This is also because of the image they have created for themselves. Every minute of life has a smile moment, only an open mind can see that. A deep conscious empathy is required to see goodness in bad times. Even one funny bone in a leader will always help in managing these tough moments better than a stiff – necked robot.

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