Laugh Your Way to Better Leadership

Over the weekend, we had a snow and ice storm hit. About two-thirds of the households in our area (14,000+) were without power at some point. 

As the storm ended, a neighbor and I cut up trees, removing them from our fences and hauling them to the curb. As I was pulling on a stuck branch, I slipped, fell backward and did a complete barrel roll in the snow. 

My neighbor stopped what he was doing and yelled, “Are you okay?” 

I was fine, and we laughed. 

We laughed because I’m sure I looked utterly ridiculous. We laughed because real tree workers would mock our lack of skill. We laughed to relieve the tension of being without power in winter. 

When we talk about leadership, we often mention goals, strategy, team-building, clarity and communication. 

All of these are critical, but we must also lead the way with laughter.

Laughter, especially the ability to laugh at oneself, is vital for effective leadership in the workplace. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter has both short and long-term benefits.

“A good laugh has significant short-term effects. When you start to laugh, it doesn’t just lighten your load mentally, it induces physical changes in your body. Laughter can:

    • Stimulate many organs. Laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the endorphins that are released by your brain.
    • Activate and relieve your stress response. A rollicking laugh fires up and then cools down your stress response, and it can increase and then decrease your heart rate and blood pressure. The result? A good, relaxed feeling.
    • Soothe tension. Laughter can also stimulate circulation and aid muscle relaxation, both of which can help reduce some of the physical symptoms of stress.


Laughter isn’t just a quick pick-me-up, though. It’s also good for you over the long term. Laughter may:

    • Improve your immune system. Negative thoughts manifest into chemical reactions that can affect your body by bringing more stress into your system and decreasing your immunity. By contrast, positive thoughts can actually release neuropeptides that help fight stress and potentially more serious illnesses.
    • Relieve pain. Laughter may ease pain by causing the body to produce its own natural painkillers.
      Increase personal satisfaction. Laughter can also make it easier to cope with difficult situations. It also helps you connect with other people.
    • Improve your mood. Many people experience depression. Laughter can help lessen your stress, depression and anxiety and may make you feel happier. It can also improve your self-esteem.”


So, one of the best things you can do as a leader is incorporate laughter into your day.

  • Watch a favorite episode of a sitcom. It will only take about 20 minutes on a streaming platform.
  • Listen to stand-up comedy. Most streaming apps have comedy channels.
  • Recall a funny story from your life. Every person has personal stories that are utterly ridiculous. For example, I once caught a dumpster on fire with some friends. Another time, I wrecked my bicycle, and instead of riding it home, I got mad, threw it in the ditch and ran home. (Neither of these were glorious stories of triumph, but hey, they are real stories from my life.)
  • Tell your ridiculous stories to others. People follow people. Humans follow humans. 


And one of the best ways to build trust is to laugh, especially at yourself. 


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Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Chief Operating Officer for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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