Interview Transcript

How do you look at the role of humor in leadership?

I would say it’s dangerous but really useful. Dangerous as in if you’re constantly telling jokes, people might think the person or the company isn’t serious. But also, if you can laugh at mistakes, it takes the stress out of mistakes. If you can laugh at yourself, it means people will realise you’re human and you’ll take feedback the right way. Somehow, being able to laugh about things is good, providing you’re not seen as a joker. There’s a fine line.

I was in Bosnia during the war. I was with about seven or eight guys, and we were building an observation post on a cliff overlooking Sarajevo to bomb the Serbs into submission. I guess they figured out what was going on, and they started bombing us. Mortar bombs were landing all over the place, and we realised the only safe place was a trench about 200 metres away, so we started running towards it. One of my guys who had a very good sense of humour said, “Okay, let’s get in line, we can’t jump in the trench all in one go. Who’s got four kids? Get to the front. Three kids? You’re next. Two kids?” And there’s the guy at the back. “You’re single. You don’t even have a girlfriend, get to the back.” You can laugh in almost any situation.

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