One thousand of our employees waited expectantly for me to take the stage. I had just received a promotion and became the first woman on the executive leadership team in our organization’s history. After a generous introduction, applause rang out and I started toward the podium. As I climbed the steps, my heel caught the hem of my skirt, and I tripped — I mean I fell flat on my newly promoted face. Thank goodness Facebook live wasn’t invented yet.
Someone quickly helped me to the mic, and understandably the room fell quiet. Immediately I changed my historical opening remarks. I confessed that I would be the woman at this organization who would do things differently from everyone else. I had a good laugh at myself, and before long everyone else was laughing with me.
I received countless emails that day, messages of congratulations and several humorous remarks about my fall. I didn’t realize it at the time, but my grand entrance into executive leadership and my ability to laugh at myself created an instant connection with the team.
We all make leadership mistakes and learning to laugh at ourselves and laugh with others about our missteps is a sign of leadership strength and not weakness.
Here are three reasons you need to learn to laugh at yourself:
1. It makes you real. Leaders aren’t perfect but often others expect them to be. Learning to laugh at yourself and share humorous stories about yourself helps make you real and authentic to your team. It’s like giving your team permission to breath and not walk on eggshells around you thinking you are perfect and you demand perfection from others. Yes, you’re in a role with greater responsibility and accountability for a reason, but the role itself doesn’t change. Embrace the reality that you are a person who will make mistakes.
2. It makes you reachable. It has never been more essential than in today’s market that you are an accessible leader. A distant leader still operating in a hierarchical organization has major problems. To succeed in today’s fast paced world, a flatter more collaborative and innovative work environment is needed. Leaders don’t have all the answers to the future and desperately need an employee team actively engaged with each other and with leadership. Laughing at yourself breaks down barriers and invites others to reach out to you to solve problems, advance opportunities, and bring new ideas to the table.
3. It gives others permission to laugh at themselves too. All healthy organizations are built on the foundation of trust and learning to laugh at yourself can help build trust. It’s a valuable gift to give your employee team – the gift of laughter and authentic leadership. When you let them know you can laugh at your mistakes, it gives them permission to laugh at themselves too. We simply don’t have time to waste covering up our missteps and trying to lead behind a mask of perfection. Learning to laugh at yourself models for others how to do the same.
What other reasons do you think learning to laugh at yourself is beneficial to an employee team?