Humility and Humor

Humility and Humor

Like a welcome summer rain, humor may suddenly cleanse and cool the earth, the air and you.

Langston Hughes

As summer sizzles its way across the Northern Hemisphere, many people who complained mere months ago about the cold weather would welcome the slightest amount of precipitation. Whether a simple spritz or sudden downpour, hot temperatures decrease, and moods are often elevated with a simple shift in climate.

A change in “climate” is what author Langston Hughes suggests a dose of humor can offer those of us interested in improving our lives, and the lives of those in our spheres of influence.  Actually, the team at LEADon® would add a measure of humility to this micro-climate mix.  After all, who doesn’t feel better when someone offers a joke rather than a jibe?  And isn’t a humble “I’m sorry” so refreshing, especially from those who tout the importance of authenticity and accountability?

At LEADon, we’ve become big fans of those leaders who have striven to merge both of these “H’s” into their leadership milieu. We also have realized how much of a challenge balancing these two attributes can be. Think about it: How can a leader be simultaneously amusing and modest? And how does one go about lifting up a group of people without becoming the center of attention?

We believe that not only is this kind of balance possible but it’s also essential for improving the atmosphere in which we all work and live.  So, let’s begin by addressing what may seem like the most difficult of these two characteristics: humility.

On a coast-to-coast flight, a LEADon team member had an in depth conversation with former U.S. Navy Seal Jocko Willink that confirmed our philosophy about what it takes for those in leadership to become exceptional.  Leaders who have achieved high levels of personal and professional success have not only valued but also embraced accountability.  Willink and coauthor Babin refer to this kind of accountability as “extreme ownership,” and they explain that this “requires checking your ego and operating with a high degree of humility. Admitting mistakes, taking ownership and developing a plan to overcome challenges are integral to any successful team” (Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win, 2015, p. 100).

One of LEADon’s online courses, LEADers Walk Their Talk®, was specifically designed to help leaders incorporate “extreme ownership” into their lives.  We explain how those in leadership need to role model the values they expect to see in others. In other words, if you truly desire humility within your personal and professional ranks, then that characteristic should be a regular, consistent part of your leadership too (to explore our online content, including over thirty leadership courses, please visit

Now, let’s take a look at the other attribute that is essential for refreshing your leadership capabilities: humor. It’s important to note that humor doesn’t mean you must become a standup comic at home or work.  Instead, we recommend you strive for a more light-hearted approach as you interact with those in your various spheres of influence.  In addition, this method of leadership means being more willing to laugh, even at yourself (which not-too-surprisingly also reveals your level of humility).  Humorous individuals try to cultivate smiles rather than stress, a positive shift that is welcomed by people in any climate or culture.  According to Forbes contributor Gary Orme, this methodology can make a leader seem far more effective since “humor helps people to listen, to understand and to learn from a leader’s message. One study found a good sense of humor is considered to be one of the most desirable traits in a manager” (you can read Orme’s October 2020 article, “Why Jokes are Seriously Helpful for Leaders in a Long-term Crisis,” at

In our online leadership course, LEADing with Personal & Professional Life Balance®, we explain how Laughter is one of seven key components leaders should embrace in order to increase success and significance in their personal and professional lives. Such positive results are possible because “laughter is known to improve mood and reduce tension, and researchers suggest it can even improve problem-solving and memory” (p. 65 of The Leading Edge: 9 Strategies for Improving Internal and Intentional Leadership, Wilke & Wilke, 2019).

No matter what season you find yourself in, a good dose of humor and humility can’t help but revitalize your leadership—and the lives of those around you. If the team at LEADon can assist you in this process, you can connect with us anytime at 858.592.0700 or