An American journalist once asked Mahatma Gandhi what he thought of the western civilisation. The old man cheerily replied that that would be a great idea. On another occasion, after the Mahatma, dressed as usual as a poor Indian farmer, had met king George V at the Buckingham Palace in London, a reporter asked him how could he call on the king attired like that. “Oh, that was no problem at all, in any case the king was wearing enough for both of us” was his tongue-in-cheek reply. No doubt, he was a man of indomitable will and he could empathise with scores of millions of his followers, but his sense of humour had also played not a mean part in making Mahatma Gandhi a much loved leader.
So, what held true for perhaps the greatest leader of the second millennium is valid for lesser mortals and lesser leaders – a ready sense of humour not only makes the task of leadership appear less onerous but also provides to the leaders an escape route out of a contentious situation, in which they sometimes find themselves.
And here is a tip even for the most humourless leader – if they really want to cultivate a sense of humour they should learn to laugh at the jokes cut by their followers, and before that create an atmosphere in which the followers felt secure enough to cut a joke in their presence and sometimes even at the expense of the leaders themselves.