Bell Leadership Study Finds Humor Gives Leaders the Edge

Chapel Hill, NC — A new study by the Bell Leadership Institute in Chapel Hill, NC, found that when employees are asked to describe the strengths and weaknesses of senior colleagues in their organizations, “sense of humor” and “work ethic” are mentioned twice as much as any other phrases. Bell Leadership surveyed approximately 2,700 employees in a variety of workplace settings over a two-year period.

“Humor is a vital tool of leadership,” says Dr. Gerald D. Bell, the founder and CEO of Bell Leadership Institute. “People are used to associating laughter with the best medicine, but they are often surprised that ‘sense of humor’ is the phrase most frequently associated with the best in leaders.” Bell Leadership’s findings show that people appreciate leaders who have fun and work hard to get the job done. “Those who can combine a strong work ethic and sense of humor may have the leading edge in their organizations,” says Dr. Bell.

The Bell study also looked at the specific ways in which senior managers use humor to improve performance. The most effective leaders use humor to spark people’s enthusiasm, deliver an honest message in a good-natured way, boost productivity, put people at ease, bring teams together, and see the light side of a situation. Less effective leaders use humor in negative ways – to show off, cut people down with sarcasm, and overly distract people from the task at hand. In Dr. Bell’s upcoming Advanced Communication programs in Chapel Hill on March 27- 29, or October 16-18, 2012, participants learn how to build their humor.

Kris Carroll, president of Grady-White Boats, a high-quality boat manufacturer in Greenville, North Carolina, recognized the powerful effects of humor in her executive team. In a recent workshop with Bell Leadership, Ms. Carroll’s team explored ways to use humor to ease stressful situations, leading to more effective relationships and teamwork. “We had a very successful, creative, honest, and open workshop,” she said. “Everyone received greater insight into the value humor has in our strong team dynamics.”

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Bell Leadership Institute ( is a recognized leader in executive education and development. Since 1972, Bell Leadership has helped organizations develop leadership mastery through its programs and services. Its training programs have been used by more than 500,000 leaders in more than 4,700 organizations in over 30 countries.

SOURCE: Bell Leadership Institute.