A Little Self-Irony Doesn’t Hurt

It is now known even to the layman that leadership is a very relevant issue, in every area, not just in the world of work. At the same time, we note that the positive vision is one of the great themes of our age. Perhaps because we are now convinced of how beneficial it can be, how much it stimulates and activates positive emotions, and therefore better results in terms of personal performance and the involvement of others.

We can now define optimism as a real skill.

There is no doubt, in fact, that especially in a moment made so intense and difficult by the profound and sudden cultural, economic, technological, and social transformations, it makes sense that optimism assumes a fundamental value; it comes to everyone as a boost of possibility, of hope, of encouragement and a good leader must bear witness to this in organizations.

Yet, when it comes to leadership, we tend too often to heaviness and seriousness, as if we were subjected to constant pressures that do not allow us to remain detached, serene, and capable of interacting in humanly sustainable ways.

And instead, precisely because this present is very eventful, sometimes tiring and restless but, at the same time, the bearer of great growth, progress, innovation, and cultural development, there is an ever greater need for human leadership.

It is therefore good to reflect on certain “nuances” of leadership, on the need to strengthen a leadership that intercepts new feelings, new customs, new ways of interacting, and new thought patterns.

So, no to a leader forced into a role where he struggles to find the deep roots of his true self, with apparent imperturbability, bleak impersonality, and absence of any movement of the soul.

Yes instead to a leader capable of self-irony who breaks any residual element of rigidity and “humanizes” it.

Self-irony is a precious virtue for everyone, even more so for leaders

The levity that self-irony entails is entirely healthy and has nothing to do with superficiality.

Self-irony is capable of creating a relaxed dialogue between people, mutual ease, and even more intimacy.

Faced with someone capable of making fun of their limits, we are actually led to do the same: to reveal our defects and to tell our experiences with the intention of sharing in the life of others.

Distances are shortened, therefore, and not only. A confrontation more marked by mutual esteem is established.

Proving to be imperfect, it allows our interlocutor to “let his guard down” and trust more. You smooth out the criticisms of others and, above all, you are able to interpret them as observations to be listened to and accepted in order to be able to improve.

The desire for leaders with whom to identify, not light years away from our individual microcosm, popular, whose authority does not derive only from classic skills and excellent soft skills but also from that extra gear which is self-irony, is growing stronger. Which makes them question and connect more easily to the group.

Self-irony is humility and courage, both qualities of particular appeal and particular utility. Those with self-irony normally express great empathy and generate a further aspect of appreciable positivity: relaxation.

Naturally, this behavior can only be accepted and valued if the organization is based on a corporate culture that puts people at the center, and encourages their spontaneity, creating a serene work environment that aims to always keep everyone’s morale high.

I hope these reflections resonate with someone. Any comment can animate a discussion.


Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo Delli Paoli
Aldo is a lawyer and teacher of law & Economic Sciences, "lent" to the finance world. He has worked, in fact, 35 years long for a multinational company of financial service in the auto sector, where he held various roles, until that of CEO. In the corporate field, he has acquired skills and held positions as Credit Manager, Human Resource Manager, Team leader for projects of Acquisition & Merger, branch opening, company restructuring, outplacement, legal compliance, analysis and innovation of organizational processes, business partnerships, relations with Trade Unions and Financial Control Institutions. After leaving the company, he continued as an external member of the Board of Directors e, at the same time, he has gone back practicing law and was a management consultant for various companies. He has been also a columnist for newspapers specializing in labor law, automotive services and work organization. His interests include human behavior in the organizational environment, to the neuroscience, the impact of new technologies, the fate of the planet and people facing poverty or war scenarios. He loves traveling, reading, is passionate about many sports, follows the NBA and practices tennis.

DO YOU HAVE THE "WRITE" STUFF? If you’re ready to share your wisdom of experience, we’re ready to share it with our massive global audience – by giving you the opportunity to become a published Contributor on our award-winning Site with (your own byline). And who knows? – it may be your first step in discovering your “hidden Hemmingway”. LEARN MORE HERE


  1. Thank you for being interested in my comment. I agree with your considerations.
    Self-irony is a quality that is too often underestimated, which instead has extremely positive functions in our communication and in relationships with others.
    Self-irony also makes us find courage and self-confidence. Making fun of yourself is psychologically the first weapon we have to escape shyness or a sense of shame, especially when we feel insecure and self-esteem wobbles.
    I am convinced that this is often one of the winning qualities for a Leader. The ego and sterile authority of a person is dominated, who becomes capable of playing with himself and with others by developing strong empathy. Exactly that virtue, empathy, which underlies the winning character of leadership: authority and continuous comparison with the opinions and emotions of others.

  2. Absolutely concur with you, Aldo.

    “Yes instead to a leader capable of self-irony who breaks any residual element of rigidity and “humanizes” it.”
    Instead of magnifying losses or misfortunes or whatever we call them let us do the opposite to cool down and think quietly.
    Self-irony is one way of doing this. The reasons you explained why self-irony is such a virtue is on spot.

    That self-irony brings down the wall between a leader and his followers is true. This allow for open and two-ways dialogues that allow for sharing experiences and gaining understanding and wisdom.