My mother, who loved to laugh, was a master at it
In her younger days, she was someone who would perhaps have been described as a handsome woman. She was large boned and full bosomed with striking blue eyes, blond hair and an air of authority that drew people to her like a magnet.
Of course, as she aged and illness made its mark, her physical appearance changed. And, along with it, she gave up the fight against the relentlessness of graying hair, allowing the silver to blossom to its fullest extent.
One day, she was having a discussion with some of her women friends who were all remarking on my father’s good looks. (My father was always handsome. He was one of those guys who, annoyingly, only got better looking as he aged. ) At one point in the discussion, one of the women asked Mum how she had managed to snag such a good-looking man for a husband. Without batting an eye, my mother said, “Well, I didn’t always look like this, you know!”
The room erupted in laughter and my mother laughed along with them having won their admiration simply by poking a little fun at herself. Pretty powerful stuff.
As a leadership tool, Self-deprecating humour can be pretty powerful too.
This is the kind of humour that leaders use to highlight their humanness and allow those around them to see a glimpse of something about them that is less than perfect, less than contained, less than controlled.
Allowing these glimpses of imperfection and depth of character to emerge is important. It is important because it helps to break down the barriers between bosses and everyone else, allowing for greater engagement and more opportunity for open discussion and idea exchanges. What’s not to love about that?
There is a cautionary note though, and that is that while self-deprecation can be healthy and fun, it should not be allowed to degenerate into something that more accurately resembles self-flagellation.
In other words if bosses are constantly critical of themselves, then red flags tend to come up for those who look to them for leadership. And that’s not a good thing at all.
Here are some thoughts about how to make self-deprecating humour work for you rather than against you:
Here’s a new flash. We all make mistakes. Some of them aren’t that serious and so why not take a pre-emptive strike and laugh first before others do it for you?
People who are comfortable in their own skin find it easier to laugh at themselves than people who are not. Healthy self-esteem and confidence in one’s abilities pave the way to a lighter existence.
Take the work seriously. Yourself…not so much
Self-deprecation is an element of humility. As a boss, staying focused on making the work and the people who do it, more important than maintaining a certain image or status as a leader, is key to success…for everyone.
So what are your thoughts? When was the last time you shared a good laugh at your own expense? What did you notice…about yourself? about those around you?