Drawing on authentic workplace interactions, this paper examines the ways in which effective leaders use humor as a discursive resource to construct particular aspects of leadership style. The conventional wisdom in leadership studies suggests that humor is an important tool for “good” leaders who inspire and challenge their subordinates. The management studies literature suggests a basic distinction between a traditional transactional style, which is rule-driven and task focused, and a more favored transformational style, where leaders encourage creativity and innovation, and are characterized as inspirational. Using data collected in a range of New Zealand organizations, this paper explores and illustrates the wide range of functions served by humor, and the ways in which humor contributes to aspects of the construction of leadership styles. Our analysis supports recent proposals that many effective leaders combine aspects of both transactional and transformational styles of leadership.
© Walter de Gruyter