Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Should Leaders Laugh often and much ?

I laugh quite loudly and people say that I smile a lot.

A few years back, a smart lady joined as a Project Manager,  reporting to me.  After a few weeks,  after we had our weekly meeting, she muttered, as if to herself, " I guess, I too can smile more, I thought leaders should not  smile.... " . 

This is a common misconception amongst many of us.  It is a universally accepted fact that smiling and laughing shows that a person is happy. Smiling also signifies submission and shows "Hey ! I am not a threat!". All organizations have some hierarchy and when a person who has a higher designation smiles, s/he appears more accessible and humble and vice-versa !  The team / followers open up to the smiling  leader and this makes the leader's tasks easier to get done.  

It is interesting that just like yawning, smiling too is contagious. It causes people to reciprocate by returning the smile, albeit even when both are faking it too ! Just like  The Echo Effect !  Professor Dimberg of Uppsala University, Sweden conducted an experiment. 120 volunteers were exposed to happy, scowling and frowning faces and were told to make expressionless or opposit faces. The experiment showed that the volunteers did not have a total control over their facial muscles. Though the volunteers tried hard, but the twitching of their facial muscles told a different story - they were mirroring the expressions which they saw . So it proves that the more you smile, the more positive reactions people will give you. 

Another amazing story worth telling is that of the Norman Cousins, who are famous for their book "Anatomy of an Illness", later made into a film. After being diagnosed with a collagen as well as heart disease, his doctors told them that their days are numbered and they will live in excruciating pain till they finally die.  The cousins watched and re-watched every funny movie which they could find and after 6 months, the doctors were incredulously surprised to find that their disease was completely  cured !

Smiles and laughter are the best way to bond. Remember how we giggled and laughed when were were in school ?  And if you think hard, the bonding of that period are the strongest compared to the acquaintances we make later. As an adult we laugh about 15 times a day compared to a pre-schooler who laughs 400 times !  As a ritual, in one of my project teams, whenever a new person joined the team, we played a game called "Hot Seat". Once he sat on the seat, he was supposed to answer just any question which was put across to him. It used to be a hilarious session and the team bonding was just superb !

Smile constantly. It will make people wonder what you have been upto and whether you know something which they don't !

I feel that a leader should smile and laugh often and much . Then team feels at ease with her and the working environment becomes conducive and healthy. But beware,  it is easy to catch a false smile - which does not reach the eyes. A false smile usually has an exactly opposite  effect and the team will feel that you are a liar ! 

"Laugh, and the world laughs with you,
Weep, and you weep alone ....

Rejoice, and men will seek you ,
Grieve, and they turn and go "  - Ella Wheeler Wilcox


  1. Very true. Smile is simply a MUST for leaders in any organization. Betters the relationship with both the team-members who report to you, as well as your peers.

  2. Smile is the most beautiful curve

  3. As a therapy,this works,and works real good-The problem is this remains(as a therapy) similar to what one would call a white lie-And white lies when used in perpetuity,as management tools,loose their sheen-This is the end result like you mentioned a false smile-In fact if indulged too much,can be so much more detrimental on combined team efforts-Its simple you have to inculcate a process what i would call 'a smile to the bank'-This is not happening , in today's competitive scenario,for the individual-Its much like a false set of teeth,which the old use-(Its a different scenario nowadays,when even the young have to use dentures)-You cited two examples,experimental,which gave stunning results-These are noteworthy,in that one gets inspired to follow suit-In western laboratories they are now validating the healing attributes unleashed by our systems of meditation,and even patenting such results-There is no alternative,you have to choose,between smiling in a market economy,which when embraced gets restricted to the facial muscles,or be a 'smiling personality',which surprisingly embraces modern market forces-This can transpire when you integrate human values,into management techniques-And what are such values?Unmask yourself to uncover these-The word personality has its origin in the word 'persona' latin for 'mask'-,a cover up -Alas its been a cover up all through-But with survival taking the center stage,even a cover up is justified-

    I shed a tear
    They asked me why
    It flowed like a torrent
    Just don't know why
    I splashed my joy
    And then this smile
    All flowed with the gush
    That's the reason why

    Sincere Regards

    1. Very nice comment, but pray, why Anonymous ? I would love to know who you are so that I can thank you by name .

  4. we have interacted before,my last observation was on 'people or processes'-which you missed i think-anyway this is vijay,i thank you for your observation-Anonymity its a just another avatar
    Sincere Regards