5 Reasons Why Smiling Can Make You A Better Leader

Do you know it actually takes more effort to frown or scowl than it is to smile? When we smile, we actually use less muscles than when we are angry or upset.

If that is the case, then doesn’t it make sense to smile more? Why is it that leaders find it challenging to smile more often?

When I had a corporate career, prior to having a managerial or leadership role, I was a very relaxed, happy-go-lucky person. I certainly was happier and smiled a lot more when interacting with my work colleagues. When I was promoted to a managerial role and had overall responsibility for a manufacturing site, the way I interacted with others certainly changed. I was now more serious, tense and felt the pressure of being in charge of the success or failure of the site.

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One of my colleagues even said to me once that the role had changed me and even went as far as saying that the role was actually killing me. And it was true! I hated the fact that I thought I needed to be professional at work, which played out as me being serious almost all the time. The stress of the role resulted in me not enjoying what I was doing and after a few short years, I ended up leaving that career behind.

Now years later, reflecting back on that experience, I realise that I could have done things very differently. Just because I had a managerial or leadership role, that didn’t necessarily mean I had to be serious or tense most of the time. Ultimately we create our experiences and reality and I had not considered the impact my behaviour was having on others around me.

Having experienced the highs and lows of being a leader, here are five reasons why smiling more can make you a better leader.

  1. Smiling creates an environment of trust. Think about it — would you be more inclined to trust someone who is tense and serious, or someone who is smiling and relaxed? When leaders smile more, it sends a message to others that they can be trusted which, in turn, will allow others to open up. Oftentimes, when things do not go well or a mistake has occurred, if there isn’t an environment of safety and trust, people will hesitate share what has happened for fear of what the repercussions could be. Therefore, when leaders create an environment of trust, people can openly share what is going on.
  2. Smiling relaxes others. Even though we may not know what is going on for another person, if they are tense or upset, we usually can sense it. When someone is relaxed, it also relaxes us. For a leader, when others are relaxed, that’s when they are more likely to do their best work. When a leader smiles more often, we tend to feel less intimidated and will communicate better with them.
  3. Smiling more supports a positive culture. The best workplaces are usually the happiest workplaces. As a leader usually sets the standards for what the workplace culture will be, when they smile and have a friendlier approach, others will tend to replicate the same behaviour. Ultimately, smiling is contagious, which is a good thing.
  4. Smiling changes our mood. Have you ever walked past someone who smiles at you? What is your natural response? You smile back at them, right? No matter how bad of a day we’re having, if we take a few moments and smile because of the things that are going well, it automatically changes our mood. Smiling actually de-stresses us and changes our energy, which in turn, changes how we look at things.
  5. Smiling draws people to us. I know my preference is to be around people who are happy and have a positive outlook on life. I am drawn more to these types of people. So it is no different if we’re leaders. People are more inclined to be drawn to us if we’re smiling more. The most people who are drawn to us, the more we can influence them in a positive way.

Smiling is actually good for us and can bring us health benefits from reduced stress, lower blood pressure and less physical ailments. Do whatever it takes to smile more. It can be as simple as spending a few minutes each day being grateful and thinking of all the things that are going well for you. As a leader, when you smile more, you are also giving others the permission to do the same. Go on then, smile!

Question: What is one thing you can do today to smile more?

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  • Jane Ransom

    Agree 100%, and I appreciate your sharing of your prior experience. I look back at my years as a newspaper editor and have the same thoughts. Thank goodness we can keep learning & improving throughout life!

    • Neel Raman

      There are many things I wish I had done better previously however that’s the great part about being on this journey called like. I’m allowing myself to laugh at the mistakes I made knowing that I did the best I could at that time. Thank you Jane for your insights.