How leadership, laughter and workplaces work together – guest interview

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Group of business men and women seated around a board table in silhouette against a backdrop map of the world.

I’m often asked ‘who does this laughter yoga thing?’ My answer is ‘anyone—potentially everyone’.  You don’t have to be ‘weird’ or ‘wacky’ or ‘loud’.

Denise Gibbons, business owner, laughter yoga enthusiast, business leader and authorToday I’m delighted to introduce you to a friend and fellow laugher Denise Gibbons. We met in a park laughing some years back. Denise was the long-time coordinator of Brisbane Laughter Club–New Farm, and I learned Queensland committee secretary of Oxfam Australia. An accountant by profession, Denise is founding director of Integrity Wealth Services, a business soon to celebrate its 21st anniversary with about as many staff.

Ahead of the launch of her first book, Women as Leaders—The World Needs You: A Practical Guide, I asked Denise to share some thoughts on leadership, women  and laughter.  I started by asking the role laughter yoga played in her life.

Laughter yoga was transformational for me at a very challenging time in my life.  It helped me lighten the burdens of my life because I felt better from spending time laughing for no reason.  Mental and emotional health is just as important as physical health.


Q. Is laugher yoga practised in your workplace?

No, I did not want it seen to be imposed because I was the leader.  I would prefer that it is chosen. Having said that, because I’m joyful as a result of my regular laughter yoga practice, we have a very happy working environment.  Leaders set the mood for their environments.  

Q. As a successful business owner and a long-time player in the financial sector, is there one stand-out quality or attribute you have had to work really hard at developing to get to—and stay—where you are?

Persistence is the word that comes to mind in terms of developing a business.

 In terms of leadership skills, I really had to work very hard at understanding human nature in all its fascinating, frustrating and fun nuances.  I had to become aware when I was being judgemental, intolerant and exclusive.  I was truly amazed to realise how righteous we can be about other people’s lives without knowing or understanding their stories. 

I also had to really work on believing in my own abilities and learning self-compassion.  We are our own harshest critics.

Every day is a wonderful opportunity to start all over again with this learning.  

Q. Stereotypically women are seen as intuitive, compassionate, and inclusive. These have not, traditionally, been seen as leader qualities. Care to comment?

The world needs diverse teams to take care of our only home—Planet Earth—and make it a better place for every living creature on it.  To build diverse teams, we need leaders who are inclusive, collaborative and compassionate.  We need leaders who can see the vision as well as ensure that everyone who works towards the vision is considered in the process.

 Women’s caring roles in the family have included these skills.  Women often have to negotiate different ages, genders, sexuality, religions and nationalities to keep families together.

 We need to convince the patriarchal society in which we live that these skills are essential in authentic leadership and that they are courageous, not soft.  I’m hoping more authentic women leaders everywhere will show the way.  I hope my book helps with this.

The cover of Denise Gibbons' book called Women As Leaders: The World Needs YouQ. With so many books about leadership on the market, what does Women As Leaders – The World Needs You – A Practical Guide bring the reader?

I don’t believe there are too many leadership books that have been specifically tailored by a woman for women to be a practical guide. My main goal is to empower women to see themselves as leaders in everything they do. And I secretly hope men will want to read it too because the practical leadership tools are universal.   They will also gain fabulous insight into the challenges that women leaders face and thus become better supporters for the women in their lives that aspire to be leaders.


Denise Gibbons’ book Women As Leaders – The World Needs You – A Practical Guide will be launched on 7 March 2017 (in part as an Oxfam fundraiser. Meet this woman who leads and laughs, buy her book and hear about Oxfam’s projects supporting women: tickets to the launch via Eventbrite.


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It has been scientifically proven that 20 minutes of laughter reaps real physiological benefits.


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