Humor: it makes Leadership Easier

By | April 2, 2022

[April 2, 2022]  “Don’t take yourself so seriously, Satterfield.”  My Platoon Sergeant was conducting my first performance review as a new NCO and gave me some much-needed advice.  I wanted to do a good job as his team leader; being new, maybe I was too intense.  His guidance to me was to relax and use humor to make leadership easier.

Since I was a kid, I have been into comic books and reading the funny pages in the daily newspaper.  It was an incentive to read, so that was a reason my mom and dad allowed me to buy a comic book once a month.  Initially, I bought the Beatle Bailey comic books.  Later, as a teenager, my humor changed, and I began reading Gary Larson’s Far Side comics.

“I think one thing that’s important to maintain is a sense of fear, always doubting yourself… a good dose of insecurity helps your work in some ways.” – Gary Larson

I’m still a fan of The Far Side.  What I like about it is the surrealistic humor based on uncomfortable social situations.  I was uncomfortable as a new NCO, so I could relate.  Gary Larson had a twisted sense of humor, and he used people and animals (often cows and dogs, but just about any animal).

Far Side cartoon by Gary Larson

One of my favorite publications by Larson was titled “Winder Dog Art: A Far Side Collection” (1990).1  It was a tough time for me that year.  I was working crazy hours as an Infantry Company Commander, and his work made me smile and remember not to take myself too seriously.

Through the years in the Army, I always tried to remember that leadership is about people.  And, if you want to influence people, you need to have an attractive message.  Humor goes a long way toward making it a reality; humor is like the grease that keeps machinery going.  A good joke, a comic book, or the funny pages can be a great vehicle for getting your message across.

I found that using self-deprecating humor is the safest and most practical.  It shows that you are human, and if used correctly (which is difficult), it can be a powerful tool.  Don’t muck it up!  There is a thin line between exposing a simple human fault (funny) and faking it (not so funny).

Use humor, use it skillfully, and have an easier time as a leader.




Please read my new book, “Our Longest Year in Iraq,” on Amazon (link here).

Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

18 thoughts on “Humor: it makes Leadership Easier

  1. Lady Hawk

    Gen. Satterfield, you got that right. Humor makes ALL life more interesting. What I find problematic, however, is the attack on comedians. That is a bad thing for us. If you can’t take someone making fun of you or what you do, then you are weak and not up to what a real person is like. That is why I love John Wayne. A real man’s man.

  2. Sally McGeewald

    Danny, funny, crazy, roll on the floor humor. You don’t get clean humor anymore.

  3. Dale Paul Fox

    Today’s victim society does not like humor. Gary Larson’s works has been attacked because it “insults” animals. What? There are truly many crazy liberals who would attack their own mother if it would gain them some victim points.

  4. Purse 5

    Humor = people. I can understand why you would use humor, Gen. S. In an earlier article (or was it articles?) you told us about how important it was to be likeable as a leader — not popular so much as likeable. That likeability is what gets folks to be attracted to you, listen to you, and support you. That is the mark of a leader. Especially important for a new leader.

  5. KenFBrown

    If you can’t laugh at these cartoons – thank you Gen. Satterfield for putting up this article – then you are a sicko, snowflake who is a self-inflicted victim of ignorance. Plenty of those nutjobs around. Ha Ha. I just love poking snowflakes in the chest, just to watch them cry.

    1. Audrey

      Yes, they are babes. Adult babes. All without an ounce of responsibility.

  6. Willie Strumburger

    Larson’s work, though, somehow still transcends the culture that produced it. But it’s not more complicated or political than a picture of a guy shouting “taxidermist!” at a yellow car filled with dead animals. If you don’t smile at that, I can’t help you. 😊😊😊😊😊

      1. Ernest

        👍 Another big fan here. That’s why I read .. to get more insight into what’s happening from the leadership perspective but also to occasionally laugh and smile. Gary Larson’s cartoons are the best!!!!!!!

  7. Bryan Z. Lee

    Larson is publishing new comics every day! Three cheers for Gary Larson!

    1. Larry G.

      Good to hear. Thanks Gen. Satterfield for making my day. 🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸🇺🇸

  8. H. M. Longstreet

    Good one, Gen. Satterfield. I’m a Gary Larson cartoon fan myself. When he ‘retired’ from drawing cartoons, I was disappointed but he is back at it again.

    1. Goalie for Cal State

      Larson is the creator of The Far Side, a single-panel cartoon series that was syndicated internationally to more than 1,900 newspapers for fifteen years. The series ended with Larson’s retirement on January 1, 1995. In September 2019, his website alluded to a “new online era of The Far Side”. On July 8, 2020, Larson released three new comics, his first in 25 years. His twenty-three books of collected cartoons have combined sales of more than forty-five million copies.


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