from the world's big
Eight reasons why comedians make good leaders
After a landslide victory, a popular comedian with no political experience becomes Ukraine's next president. Are comedians really the best leaders?
If you were browsing Netflix's comedy section recently, you might have noticed the Ukrainian sitcom, Servant of the People. In it, an ordinary history teacher is unwittingly elected president of the Ukraine.
In an unusual turn of events, the star of that series, comedian Volodymyr Zelensky, was recently actually voted in as the next president of Ukraine. While there's no doubt Zelensky is a popular comedian – does he really have what it takes to lead the country?
As part of my ongoing doctoral research, I surveyed 230 musical directors to find out what skills they think they need to lead successfully. Many of these leaders reported that telling a joke or a funny anecdote was important. Of course, we all enjoy a good giggle, but is cracking jokes really a useful way for leaders to spend their time? The research I have been exploring on humour and leadership suggests that we might be better off employing Michael McIntyre than Bill Gates. Here, are eight key ways that leaders can usefully use humour in their work:
1. Creating a 'team'
Good leaders want a unified team behind them, if for no other reason than it drastically reduces the chances of a coup occurring (UK prime minister Theresa May can doubtless tell you more about that). Using humour has been shown to strengthen solidarity between colleagues and successful leaders can channel humour into team spirit, uniting their followers behind them.
2. Avoiding fatigue
Laughter might not always be the best medicine, but if leaders want to motivate flagging followers, a well-placed joke might do the trick. Using humour relieves boredom and raises energy levels. This is a handy trick for leaders and not just in formal workplaces. Leaders of exercise groups, for example, might use humour to motivate class members, enabling them to feel the burn for longer.
3. Softening criticism
Often, leaders have to deliver criticism without alienating their followers. An easy and effective way of managing this is to deliver this criticism in a lighthearted way. This is particularly useful if the leader wants to get along well with their followers. Speaking of which…
4. Balancing power and politeness
Leaders depend on their followers respecting them. They will also, however, have an easier time working with their team if they do so politely as opposed to dictating. Using humour is a great way of positioning yourself as leader of a group without rudely reminding everyone that you're in charge and they have no choice but to follow you.
5. Diffusing tension
Even under the best of leaders, mistakes happen and occasionally tensions will run high. In this situation, as a leader you have two choices. Maintain a stiff upper lip and plough on in the face of revolt. Or make a joke, lighten the mood, and diffuse the tension in the room. Using comedy in this way smooths over friction and resets the mood.
6. Eliciting goodwill of followers
(Almost) everyone likes to be liked. Leaders, however, can really benefit from being popular. Research has shown not only that humour can encourage followers to think positively of someone, but that it can also suppress negative feelings towards them. You do, of course, have to be careful, as it's possible to overcompensate – just think of David Brent's relentless nonsense in TV series The Office.
7. Fostering creativity
Humour comes in many forms but a common type of joke involves unexpected combinations of incongruous ideas: "One morning I shot an elephant in my pyjamas. How he got in my pyjamas, I don't know" (Groucho Marx). One of the byproducts of combining odd ideas in this way is increasing creativity levels in groups, making teams more productive and innovative.
8. Benefiting health
We all feel better after a good laugh, but the benefits of a good giggle go further than just cheering us up. Humour expert John Morreall puts this best:
Physically and mentally, humour is the opposite of stress. Laughter lowers blood pressure, increases blood circulation, reduces muscle tension and pain, and boosts the immune system.
So what does this mean for aspiring leaders? Well, comic timing isn't going to turn a terrible leader into a hotshot CEO, but it turns out that if they use humour carefully, leaders can turn laughs into votes or giggles into team spirit.
Perhaps Volodymyr Zelensky isn't really unprepared for his new job at all. David Brent probably had the right idea all along: "When people say to me: would you rather be thought of as a funny man or a great boss? My answer's always the same – to me, they're not mutually exclusive."
- It's No Joke as North Korea Bans Sarcasm - Big Think ›
- Jim Gaffigan: Liberals Are Wrong to Dismiss Trump Supporters - Big ... ›
Ready to see the future? Nanotronics CEO Matthew Putman talks innovation and the solutions that are right under our noses.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
A scientist in Sweden makes a controversial presentation at a future of food conference.
- A behavioral scientist from Sweden thinks cannibalism of corpses will become necessary due to effects of climate change.
- He made the controversial presentation to Swedish TV during a "Future of Food" conference in Stockholm.
- The scientist acknowledges the many taboos this idea would have to overcome.
Depiction of cannibalism in the Medieval ages.
Soylent Green (1973) Official Trailer - Charlton Heston, Edward G Robinson Movie HD<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fc218a17afaf87b09fd01ba2320a7375"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N_jGOKYHxaQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
President Vladimir Putin announces approval of Russia's coronavirus vaccine but scientists warn it may be unsafe.
A new coronavirus vaccine on display at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/ Russian Direct Investment Fund via AP
Medical workers draw blood from volunteers participating in a trial of a coronavirus vaccine at the Budenko Main Military Hospital outside Moscow, Russia.
Credit: Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP
A report from the New York Times raises questions over how the teletherapy startup Talkspace handles user data.
- In the report, several former employees said that "individual users' anonymized conversations were routinely reviewed and mined for insights."
- Talkspace denied using user data for marketing purposes, though it acknowledged that it looks at client transcripts to improve its services.
- It's still unclear whether teletherapy is as effective as traditional therapy.
Talkspace.com<p>Former employees also questioned the legitimacy of certain interventions by the company into client-therapist interactions. For example, after one therapist sent a client a link to an online anxiety worksheet, a company representative instructed her to try to keep clients inside the app.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"I was like, 'How do you know I did that?'" Karissa Brennan, a therapist who worked with Talkspace from 2015 to 2017, told the Times. "They said it was private, but it wasn't."</p><p>Other former employees said the company would pay special attention to its "enterprise partner" clients, who worked at companies like Google. One therapist said Talkspace contacted her for taking too long to respond to Google clients.</p><p>Talkspace responded to the Times with a Medium <a href="https://medium.com/@founders_22883/talkspace-founders-respond-to-a-new-york-times-article-78d6f5c45c59" target="_blank">post</a>, which claimed the Times report contained false and "uninformed assertions."</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Talkspace is a HIPAA/HITECH and SOC2 approved platform, audited annually by external vendors, and has deployed additional technologies to keep its data safe, exceeding all existing regulatory requirements," the post states.</p>