Leadership and Humor: What Works (and What Doesn’t)

Leadership and HumorPutting yourself down can bring you up as a leader.

Researchers at Seattle University found that self-deprecating humor enhances perceptions of leadership ability because it tends to minimize status distinctions between leaders and followers.

Leaders who use self-deprecating humor are seen as more likable, trustworthy and caring. Aggressive humor that targets others (putting others down), may make the leader feel more self-important, but results negative perceptions of the leader.

However, it is possible to put yourself and others down at the same time and enhance others’ perception of your leadership.  “In-group” humor, in which you make fun of something you share with others can enhance group identity, even in negotiations in which parties are otherwise at odds.

Read the research paper here.  A note of caution: self-deprecating humor may not be as effective in some cultures or when women leaders use it (if it reinforces a negative stereotype of women).

Learn more about how to create your own self-deprecating humor.


About Diane Windingland
I speak for organizations that want their people to have better, more profitable conversations.

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