You remember the ol’ classic one liners people used to tell? “Did you hear that one about the teacher, the pastor, and a farmer who went ….”. Yea, I can’t remember the rest of the joke either but I still find them to be simple and amusing. These jokes have almost a sacredness about them and have this allure similar to the Cartoon section in the New Yorker. The classic nature of these jokes and the quirky delivery gets me every time. I love it. To me, one of the greatest attributes in a leader is the ability to inject humor and light-heartedness into a stressful situation. The delivery and the punch line are the two greatest elements to good humor and a smart leader recognizes that being the brunt of most jokes is a good thing. Self-deprecation and honest humility are common elements that build trust and admiration with those you are leading.
However, one thing to remember is that just because you have something funny or witty to say, you shouldn’t always pull the trigger. As Winston Churchill once said, “A joke is a very serious thing.” Often people insert half-truths, undercutting jabs, subtle attacks, and mocking humor that can be very offensive and off-putting. As in any great play or performance, know your audience and the setting and be sure that your humor makes people feel appreciated and not belittled.