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Does Smiling Make You a Better Leader? Top Four Reasons You Should Smile More

{ 36 comments… add one }

There is something about a smile. The other day our family went on a vacation to a small  amusement park about four hours from our home. I have younger children so we usually spend a lot of time on the kids rides. It was at least 95 degrees outside, a little humid, little Laughing kids everywhere screaming, crying, yelling, laughing… you get the picture. Being a ride operator in this part of the park can require a lot of patience and hard work as was evident on the faces of just about every young ride operator there… except for one.  

The exception was a young girl of about 16 or 17. As the kids rode, she smiled. Smiling like she was enjoying the kids, her job and life. Now you tell me, whose ride do you want your children on? I was immediately endeared to her, and I really felt like she cared about my kids and everything she was doing. She also made me happier as I watched her enjoy what she was doing. She really made a difference and got me thinking.

How many of you smile as much as you could? Here are four reasons everyone, including and especially those that lead people ought to smile.

1. Smiles make you happy. If you are ever in a down mood, try smiling ear to ear. Watch your mood change instantly.

2. Smiles make others happy. People like to be around people that are happy, it makes them happy.

3. Smiles say you care and are approachable. Research shows that being kind to employees for example improves productivity.

4. Smiles use less muscles than frowning. Therefore smiling will make you less tired and give you more energy. 

One thing to note – make sure when you smile that it is genuine and not forced or fake. People can tell the difference. So smile today. Smile now, feel the difference. I am sure this young operator had no idea the difference she had on me that day in the amusement park. What impact are you having?

Can you think of other reasons to smile? I welcome your comments. Thanks.


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  • saiyid August 4, 2010, 10:04 am

    smile is contagious,it adds charm to one’s personality–A leader has necessarily to be smiling .His smile will make the aura all around motivating and will make the workplace a productive plasce

  • TDK talks TM August 4, 2010, 10:34 am

    Well, for one, a smile or laugh can cover up alot, good and bad wether you are delivering the smile/laugh or receiving it.
    A smile means alot.
    TDK of

  • Nancy (Range) Anderson August 4, 2010, 10:38 am

    Nice blog article Mike. I agree – nothing beats a real genuine smile. It’s an ice breaker in any situation.

  • Paul Boross August 4, 2010, 10:39 am

    I like the Chinese proverb that ‘man without a smiling face should not open shop’. Same thing for business.

  • John Walton August 4, 2010, 1:03 pm

    I tend to disagree that smiling make you a better leader. It may make you appear more approachable, but leadership is not about being approachable, liked, or happy. There are many smiling, happy-go-lucky, cheerful, people who when it comes to leading others are total screw-ups of whom it would be foolish to follow.
    Leadership is about taking the point position. It is about forging the path, finding the best route, guiding others, being the person to risk being wrong, being the first to volunteer, to champion a cause, to both receive and give direction. Does smiling enhance your ability to do these things. No.
    However smiling can influence others behavior. A smile doesn’t alter Your LEADERSHIP abilities. However, it might alter Your INFLUENCING abilities.
    Influence is often considered an attribute of leadership in general, but it is an attribute of both good and bad leaders. I’m sure Satan smiles when he influences us to do wrong.

  • Stephen Kendrick August 4, 2010, 8:40 pm

    Many leaders can take themselves too seriously. While leadership may require one to be tough on others a smile can let others know you have a balance with your life and maybe theirs. Life can be too serious to be serious at times.

  • Mike Rogers August 4, 2010, 8:41 pm

    Thanks for your comments John. I agree with some of what you have said and don’t with other things. Smiling can make you a better leader. I would agree that smiling by itself doesn’t make you a great leader any more than “being the person to risk being wrong” (as you state) or “being the first to volunteer” (as you state) alone makes you a better leader. It is a component of being a good leader.
    Being able to smile says you care and are approachable. I disagree with you that this isn’t important in leadership. Leadership is about people following you. It is about inspiring people. It’s about giving them a vision. It’s about influencing. People follow people they trust (I understand that people can be led by dictators as well). People trust people they know care about them. Again, smiling helps you appear more approachable and caring, which increases your trust, which increases your ability to influence and have people lead.
    There is good leadership and bad leadership, but both are leadership, right? Hitler was a leader, but he led by influencing through fear and lies. Jesus Christ was a leader, but he chose to lead and influence by pure love. Both smiled, but one was genuine, the other was evil. I am certain that when Jesus smiled it created feelings that he cares.

  • Lee Hendricks August 5, 2010, 7:01 am

    I was so inspired by the power of this simple story. It enabled me to smile after a tough day. This showed me the power of the smile, even if I could not see it. As the father of many children I have lived such experiences at a park. I could clearly see the ride operator in my mind’s eye. Just the thought of the smile, made me smile.
    The power of smiling is infectous. The old saying “smile and the whole world smiles with you.” We often hear of the power of one. Just one smiling person can affect so many others. So, smile and change the world, one person at a time!

  • William Brottmiller August 5, 2010, 10:09 am

    The line “Smile and the world smiles with you” appears in Annie, attributed to FDR. The worst boss I ever had criticized me for smiling too much. There was nothing about his leadership that I wanted to follow. I want to be on the smilers’ side, among the people who are approachable, likeable, happy, and empathic. Don’t worry. When it comes to the other aspects of leadership, I’ll be visionary, communicative, risk-taking, innovative, smart, and all the rest. And I’ll be smiling.

  • Mike Rogers August 5, 2010, 3:52 pm

    Thanks everyone for you comments. They have been wonderful, and I have learned some things. Next week I am going to do a blog post on what research says about smiling. Stay tuned and keep commenting and of course smiling. I love reading what you have to say.

  • Barry E. Altland August 5, 2010, 9:21 pm

    Mike, at the core, leadership is treating others with respect for their dignity, and tapping into our basic human decency, which then translates into creating an environment where people are able to perform their best work. A smile is an outward behavior that exudes warmth, and connection, and when coupled with sincere acknowledgement of others’ presence and contribution, is the very foundation for all other work interactions.
    After all, people just want to know they matter, that what they do makes a difference. A leader has the amazing ability to influence the fulfillment of all others around them, and it could be just as easy as sharing a smile.
    So, is it possible that a leader can be effective without a frequently used, engaging smile? I suppose it’s possible, albeit less probable.
    Smiles to you!

  • Iryna Shevchuk August 5, 2010, 9:23 pm

    Smile enforce us to smile in reply and that is a start for a dialoge in any situation.
    Medical tests prove that every time of our smiling continue our life for 15 minutes. It a good motive for smile 🙂

  • Giuseppe Delli Castelli August 5, 2010, 9:26 pm

    Exactly right. Smiling is contagious, as it is bad mood.
    This is clearly explained in the work of Prof. D.Goleman in Emotional and Social intelligence.
    Good post.

  • Michael Kaneva August 6, 2010, 4:28 pm

    Smiling is not only a visul cue. There are many studies to show that those who speak while smiling on the phone have hgier rates of influence… there’s something to take to the bank !

  • Sung-Jin August 11, 2010, 7:36 am

    Smiling is a free ride on an emotional roller coaster in a positive way.

  • Louis Evans August 14, 2010, 2:03 pm

    One of the most powerful ways to positively influence people is to smile at them! Everytime I visit my local bank, I smile at the teller while walking up to the counter…what a difference a smile makes! They are always more than willing to bend over backwards to help! However…peolpe aren’t stupid. If it is fake or superficial they will notice it right away. So smile and affirm people you encounter…there is more than enough negativity in the world without leaders adding to the mix.

  • Marie Wells August 14, 2010, 2:03 pm

    Smiling makes you a leader. The pleasant demeanor accompanied with a smile draws others near and by nature makes anyone a leader. Smiling through adversity while understanding the lessons learned strengthens character producing a better leader.

  • Harlan Goerger August 14, 2010, 2:05 pm

    A true smile that engages the entire face sends a great safe message to others which opens them up to you. It costs nothing to give a smile other than your willingness to do so. In the new book, Bypassing NO in Business , body language, of which smiling is a part of, has an interesting effect. Wolves actually smile when confronted by the dominant wolf, who never smiles. It is actually a submissive gesture in the animal kingdom.

  • Mike Rogers August 14, 2010, 2:07 pm

    Wow, great comments everyone! Smiles have to be genuine, but I believe they make a huge difference in your ability to lead effectively. They can not only change your mood, but others as well. And can increase sales as Michael states as well!

  • Nola Hennessy August 14, 2010, 2:57 pm

    As I explain in Ch 1, Part 2 of No Boxing Allowed “The person you said hello to in the street or smiled at the other day, or the one who has smiled at you, has changed your life forever………….Never underestimate the positive power of a smile”.
    A smile is free. Being genuine in giving a smile, and receiving one (even from a total stranger), is a positive personal power exchange. A smile demonstrates positive karma and when you give one unconditionally that positive karma will come back 10 fold. One smile given = 10 smiles received. It may not be instant receipt, but it will happen. The key is giving and sharing a smile without expecting something in return. That is great leadership.
    Read more in “No Boxing Allowed” (my first book on excellence, great leadership and positive personal power), available globally from many sources, direct from publisher Xlibris in USA, or from me at Our website is launching soon and you will be able to purchase direct.
    Kind regards,
    2 days ago • Reply privately • Flag as inappropriate • Flag as promotion

  • Michael Cushman August 14, 2010, 3:07 pm

    I liked the story. In a general social situation among strangers, a smile, as in the blog, can really shift the mood. You are right about that!
    Smiles, however, are complicated because they can be fabricated. People smile when stressed or afraid, or when they want something, or when they want to be liked, and not just when they are happy.
    Sure if you are a shop keeper, you benefit from welcoming your guests, and there’s a transfer of the emotion of happiness to the other. There’s a good chance that subconsciously the brain will link up the good feelings that come from smiling with the shop and the shopkeeper.
    In Leadership however, the data shows that top leaders smile less than followers, and laugh significantly less. If you smile too much, you send signals of submissiveness, which undermines leadership. A leader benefits when using smiling to welcome members of the group, to show approval, and to signal that the mood is light, for example. However, if a member of the group is trying to dominate the conversation, then the leader smiling shows the other members of the groups that the real leader is the group member. If you are delivering orders under stress and you smile, you signal that you don’t believe the orders will be carried out. (On and on this goes…Leadership and group dynamics are nuanced, not simple.)
    Sure, many of us need to lighten up. 🙂 Life is to be enjoyed. Some leaders need to lighten up, too. And, context and roles matter. In the area of leadership-followership, leaders need to smile appropriately within the role and context.
    Thanks for sharing Mike. Hope you don’t mind my sharing my expertise as well.

  • Rebecca Slingo August 14, 2010, 3:08 pm

    I smiled just reading this blog entry. I wish the grumpy barista in the cafe downstairs was reading this……

  • Mike Rogers August 14, 2010, 3:12 pm

    Thanks Michael, great comments! I believe it has to be more than a smile though, it has to be genuine. I would be interested in the research you talk about. My immediate reaction to it is are we saying that these leaders are good leaders? Certainly they smile less than their followers, but could they be more effective if they smiled and meant it? Smiles with other motives are never a good idea in my opinion : )
    Thanks for your nice comment as well Rebecca : )

  • Alice Heiman August 16, 2010, 8:39 pm

    A smile if it is genuine goes a long way. All of us need to pay more attention to the positive. Most of the people who work for us do a lot more right than they do wrong, but it is our human nature to focus on the negative. Imagine if we were all more positive, how motivating would that be.

  • Jason Stevens August 16, 2010, 8:43 pm

    I thought this was quite relevant to the discussion – taken from Nelson Mandelas, The 8 Lessons in Leadership… here is Lesson 6 – Appearances matter and always remember to smile…
    When Mandela was running for the presidency in 1994, he knew that symbols mattered as much as substance. He was never a great public speaker, and people often tuned out what he was saying after the first few minutes. But it was the iconography that people understood. When he was on a platform, he would always do the toyi-toyi, the township dance that was an emblem of the struggle. But more important was that dazzling, beatific, all-inclusive smile. For white South Africans, the smile symbolized Mandela’s lack of bitterness and suggested that he was sympathetic to them. To black voters, it said, I am the happy warrior, and we will triumph. The ubiquitous ANC election poster was simply his smiling face. “The smile,” says Ramaphosa, “was the message.”
    After he emerged from prison, people would say, over and over, It is amazing that he is not bitter. There are a thousand things Nelson Mandela was bitter about, but he knew that more than anything else, he had to project the exact opposite emotion. He always said, “Forget the past” — but I knew he never did.

  • Mike Rogers August 16, 2010, 9:03 pm

    Alice and Jason, thank you so much for your comments. Alice, in thinking about what you said, the world would be an absolutely different place if we were all more positive. I guess we can all do our share, right? I believe like you that people are for the most part really good. It is amazing what happens when we look for the positive in people. They respond much differently. A genuine smile is a great tool we have to help people know we care.
    Jason, I love the quote. I love Nelson Mandela. Leaders come in many different flavors, this mans strength was his ability to care. And then the ability to care in such a way others knew he cared. It is not too hard to imagine his smile.

  • Tom G. Hobbs August 18, 2010, 8:41 pm

    As part of my Speakers Tool Box a Smile is often used. It can truly be the gateway to the soul of an audience member. As a leader, any tool that makes you a better communicator is worth using often. When you share a genuine smile that consumes your whole body it empowers others to a more positive attitude. For those that are very negative it annoys and repels them. So who do you want to lead?
    The Carnival ride operator’s smile makes her job far more tolerable if not out right enjoyable. Plus she will likely receive a tip of gratitude as well.
    As a Division Governor for Toastmasters, when I visit a club for the first time there can be some anxiety by the club’s leaders. I find a sincere smile and appreciation for the club’s uniqueness quickly turns me into an allies for them.
    I say smile. For those that like it great. For those it annoys I’ll SMILE a little bit bigger.
    The Man in the Hat

  • Narda McCarthy August 19, 2010, 2:46 pm

    A smile not only causes a reaction on others, but creates a change of attitude inside ourselves. I saw the difference of a smile when I volunteered for the homeless several years ago. I emphasized the importance of a smile during a communications class I taught, reminding them that a smile has no race, no language, no color or height, it is what it is; I also encouraged them to smile more often and make a point of smiling in front of a mirror. Many reported the change in attitude they were experiencing and were pleased.
    Smile! Why not? Is cheap.

  • business sales training November 16, 2010, 11:10 am

    Great story! It really shows how something as simple as a smile can change how people feel almost instantly. When you are a business owner or a leader in your company it is so important to smile. No one likes a grimmacing boss.

  • Irmadianto Tulus December 13, 2011, 10:21 am

    I like this article. I would call the kid’s ride operator as “Yes Face” or “Yes Expression”. Thanks

  • Kelly Conner April 4, 2013, 10:16 am

    Great article. Although it isn’t relative to my leadership skills. I have a goal when I go grocery shopping to smile and greet people, especially those who look like they are lonely or are having a bad day. It is great to see their faces light up when they smile in return.

    • Michael Rogers April 5, 2013, 7:57 am

      Thanks for commenting Kelly. I love that you make such a great effort when grocery shopping. How come you feel smiling wouldn’t be relevant to your leadership?



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