• Michael Cundall Jr.

Leadership Lies: What all those lists miss


Take a look around at any lists of the qualities any leader needs to have. You’ll be sure to see words like intelligence, integrity, inspiring. Lacking other suitable ‘i-words’ you’ll also find more descriptions like creative, humility, good communicator, and resilience. Some lists are at 10, others at 13 (an odd number really), and others that go all the way up to 100. I couldn’t read a list that long--wouldn't want to truth be told. And it's not because my internet attention span is so short. While many of these qualities are admirable, it’s doubtful that any one leader could ever be all those things. But more importantly, the list is incomplete and also partially false.


Of course if you’re reading this you probably have guessed that what’s missing is humor, or wit, or lightheartedness. If you guessed that any of those terms were among the missing ones, then you’re spot on. Adding humor or wit to the list isn’t like adding one more to a list of 50 or 100. It’s not even close. Having a sense of humor should appear on a top 10 list, and definitely a top 20 list. Any list that misses them, any list that doesn’t have them is not just incomplete, it’s promoting a false and damaging view of leadership.


Ask anyone you know, heck, ask strangers if they think they have a sense of humor. Dollars to pennies that they say yes. Ask them if they think having a sense of humor is important. Again, yes. Would you like having people say you lacked a sense of humor? I’d wager you wouldn’t enjoy being described as humorless. Lot’s of betting in this paragraph—sorry; I’m just that sure of myself here. Truth be told, you know it too. People are fine being told they lack the ability to draw, or dance. There isn’t much of a drawback to lacking them. While having those talents can often be beneficial, not having them will not bring some form of admonishment. I can’t draw at all, but I can dance. No one looks at me sideways for being bad at drawing but they surely would if I admitted I didn’t have a sense of humor.


Here’s my question for you to think about. If very few people would ever admit that they lack a sense of humor, they wouldn’t like to be described as humorless, that most of us would find it insulting to be described as humorless, and most people find having a sense of humor to be something attractive in another person, why do we not value that trait in our leaders? Why is something that is so important to our normal interpersonal interactions so noticeably absent in our thoughts about leaders? Why are those lists lying by omission?


I won’t provide answers yet. I’m going to give some answers in some later blogs. Things you can do while you wait, is think to see if leaders that you respect, admire, enjoy working with, etc. have a sense of humor. Was that humor valuable for that leader? How did they use it? Don’t worry too much over it, just some passing thoughts here and there. Till next time folks. Laugh often and much.

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