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Lessons in laughter can seriously improve your leadership 

IbyIMD+ Published 30 January 2024 in Leadership • 9 min read • Audio availableAudio available

A sprinkling of well-judged humor makes for better leadership, but not everyone is a natural comedian. The good news is that, through training and practice, executives can acquire the tools of comedy to enhance how they lead.

Imagine you are interviewing a promising candidate for a job that you’ve been trying to fill for a long time. As a final test, you ask: “Tell me a joke.” (A growing number of employers now do this.) The candidate passes the joke test with flying colors, but then says: “Now, it’s your turn.” Would you think, “How insolent!”, and answer: “Here’s a joke: you’re hired!” Or would you give it your best shot, and promise yourself to work on your humor skills later?

This is not an unthinkable scenario. Employers everywhere are fighting for talent, and today’s talent increasingly expects an engaging and fun manager.

So, can leaders develop and deploy humor skills at work if they are not naturally funny or perhaps don’t feel comfortable joking around? There is ample research on the positive effects leading with humor can have, from making newcomers in the team feel more welcome, increasing trust in the leader, encouraging employees to speak up, and fostering employee creativity t…

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