Leading with Humor: Authenticity
The classical pianist/humorist Victor Borge once said “the shortest distance between two people is a smile.” Authenticity has become an important aspect of leadership, sales, branding. Kind of like leadership, it's everywhere. If people get the sense that a person is inauthentic, is hiding something, or is otherwise dishonest, they will find that person a less effective leader. The same is true of a brand. Once this begins, the leadership quickly erodes into an ineffective morass and little movement for good occurs.
If our Borge quote is any indication, then being seen as having a sense of humor is one way to quickly establish a good rapport with people. But it does this for a couple of reasons. One, it’s hard to fake what we find funny and as a result it’s a window into our personality. While we might not always agree that a certain thing is funny, we do tend to like it when people demonstrate having a sense of humor. Think of all the jokes making fun of Mark Zuckerberg and his overly robotic personality. Fun, emotions, and the like are foreign to him. Thus he’s harder to relate to. We’re never sure what if anything he laughs at. Thus, it’s harder for him to seem authentic.
It’s not as if humor and laughter is all that hard. You just need to feel comfortable in expressing your humor. You don’t need to always be funny, or open and close with humor, but, as a leader, you need to be able to use it when you can. Find ways to show what you find funny. If there was something that happened in the workplace, or something in the news, play that up. Identify it, you don’t need to be doing comedy, but rather demonstrating that you’re the sort of person that enjoys humor, that has a sense of humor. When you show that, the people you lead, your team, the people of your organization will begin to feel better and closer to you. And as research shows, when individuals in an organization feel closer to their leadership they are more engaged and feel better about their jobs. Not only are there instrumental benefits, it also makes the work more enjoyable for not only you as the leader, but those around you as well.