Mahatma Gandhi said, “If I had no sense of humor, I would long ago have committed suicide.” In the crazy, hectic world we live in, a good sense of humor is no longer an option or an accessory- it’s an essential trait for successful leaders. Humor can help us be more patient, relieve our stress level and even make us more enjoyable to be around! A good sense of humor for a leader helps him or her to maintain the necessary perspective and balance needed to lead well and stay grounded. Francis Bacon said, “Imagination was given to man to compensate him for what he is not; a sense of humor to console him for what he is.” Sometimes a good sense of humor helps us to laugh at ourselves as well.
But is there only one “sense of humor”? I would challenge you to consider that indeed there are four different but necessary types of humor that today’s character based leader needs to maintain.
Sense of Humor This is the most common facet of humor we experience. It’s that ability to know and understand the humor, the fun or comedy in the people and circumstances that come our way. Leaders need a variety of relational tools on their toolbelt in life. A good sense of humor is a critical for a leader as a hammer is for carpenter or a plunger for a plumber. “Don’t wish me happiness – I don’t expect to be happy it’s gotten beyond that, somehow. Wish me courage and strength and a sense of humor – I will need them all.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Scents of Humor “The problem with having a sense of humor is often that people you use it on aren’t in a very good mood. “ Lou Holtz. A leader also needs to have a “nose” for humor. This ability to sniff out the lighter side of a situation or a personality can be invaluable in defusing explosive situations. Having a sensitive “sniffer” will also guide a leader in knowing when expressing humor is a good idea or a “stinky” idea! William Arthur Ward said, “A well-developed sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to your steps as you walk the tightrope of life.” A leader with great “scents of humor” knows how to achieve and maintain that balance.
Cents of Humor Steve Erkel, from the 90′s TV Sitcom Family Matters was famous for making a huge problem or mess, and then saying in his nasally, nerd voice, “Did I do that?” On several occasions he lost a job or was thrown out of a situation because he did indeed “say that.” Leaders understand that humor can both help or hurt the bottom dollar in their business. That’s why it’s essential that they have a great “Cents of Humor”. Harry Truman was quoted as saying, “Any man who has had the job I’ve had and didn’t have a sense of humor wouldn’t still be here.” He clearly understood the connection between the need for humor and his job! “Cents of Humor” has much to do with timing, and place and use of humor. Not every situation calls for or qualifies for having/using a sense of humor. Business and leadership call for serious times as well. Knowing when to effectively use and apply humor can make a huge difference in the amount of “cents” in the bank account at the end of the month.
Sents of Humor “One of the things that binds us as a family is a shared sense of humor.” Ralph Fiennes One of the key roles of the leader is to lead by example. Another is to mentor in those he or she leads qualities that will in turn help them to become a better leader. “Sents of Humor” are those teachable moments where a leader is able to model a sense of humor for the team, and thus helping to build an example for them to follow in the future. The leader has, in effect, “sent” a sense of humor forward in the lives of the team members. A good “Sents of Humor” shows others that there is a balance between the reality of life and humor we can find in it. William James put it this way- “Common sense and a sense of humor are the same thing, moving at different speeds. A sense of humor is just common sense, dancing.” A great “Sents of Humor” helps create better dancers!
Conclusion So lighten up. Help those you lead lighten up. Hugh Sidey said, “A sense of humor… is needed armor. Joy in one’s heart and some laughter on one’s lips is a sign that the person down deep has a pretty good grasp of life.“ It IS a crazy world, full of stress and hard work. As the leader you can help your team stay sane and centered in the middle of all the chaos. Michael J. Fox told a reporter once, “I think the scariest person in the world is the person with no sense of humor.” Don’t be scary!
Question: Which of these- Sense, Scents, Cents or Sents- of humor do you think you’ve had the greatest success with? How would you encourage someone who is struggling in that area?