How comedy can help you lead

Learning comedy might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you think about ways to improve your leadership skills – but according to some it could make all the difference.

What you will learn in this article:

  • How comedy can help you improve your listening skills
  • How to use humour to diffuse a situation
  • How comedy can help you think on your feet


Comedian Paul White runs courses to teach people the skills of comedy – he gets a lot of businesspeople come to see him. He believes that humour can make a huge difference to any social and corporate situation. “Good humour comes from humanity and it doesn't take much humour to make a vast difference to any presentation,” White says. “I know at first hand that incorporating playfulness into my life has increased my income and quality of life. You also learn a strong focus and how to surprise yourself with what you are capable of.”

But, he finds that learning good improv skills is especially helpful when wanting to improve your listening. “The more you listen, the more you learn, and the broader the range of colours you have on your palette,” he says. “Both stand-up and improv teach you the value of narrative structure and flow, and there is a growing body of evidence that it can be powerfully helpful with anxiety and self-esteem too.”


As a leader there will be times when you have to think on your feet and come up with a solution to an issue immediately. White says that comedy can help here too.

He says: “The comedian's feedback from an audience is immediate and, uniquely, comedians are able to finesse their response, second by second. We get to have an idea that afternoon, (often, on stage) and test it that evening.” 

Learning to think quickly and respond appropriately as a leader can only lead to good things for you and for your team.

Break the ice

As a leader, you’re bound to face tough situations at times, where tensions can run high. But, as White believes, humour can make a big difference even to the toughest of times.

Comedian George Wallace says that comedy can also help to put things into perspective when someone’s taking themselves too seriously and panicking over a minor mistake. George advises: "If you go Stupid, go all-the-way Stupid. Once it's too late and you're already doing something stupid, really swing for the fences. Hell, you're already in stupid territory, make it one for the record books. Make the situation so damned bad that you'll never forget it the next time. That's right: you'll actually wind up smarter in the long run."


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