The Essential Role of Dad Jokes in Leadership

By Adam McDaniel, IPLI Mentor, Assistant to the Superintendent at New Castle Community School Corporation

For as long as I can remember, “bad” jokes have been in my life. From an early age, I remember my dad slipping puns, jokes, and sarcasm into conversations. While eating out as a family, my grandfather, a proficient entertainer, would walk around to other tables and engage them in conversation riddled with story jokes. These jokes take a good 45 minutes before reaching a punchline. Although they did not know him, these brief interactions created an irresistible connection. There is just something about jokes that establishes a connection. 

How do you know when a pepper is annoying?

When it gets jalapeno business.

When I began my principalship at the elementary level, I was responsible for making the morning announcements. At the end of these announcements, I would always tell a joke. These jokes were consistently met with eye rolls and groans from the office staff. I loved it. I started having students come to me and share jokes they heard at home. Some would share jokes they made up. The practice of telling bad jokes on the announcements continued as a middle school principal. It became an expectation of me from the staff, students, and parents. 

What do you call a fish with no eye?


Telling jokes is strategic. To tell a joke successfully, you must know your audience. Not just who they are but in what mental space they reside at the moment. Sometimes a joke is not appropriate for the mood or the situation. That discretion requires a specific level of emotional intelligence. You must also be strategic as you determine what the audience will think is funny. A joke you tell to a group of kindergarteners is very different from the joke you will share with sophomores. 

What do you call a hen looking at a pile of lettuce?

A chicken sees a salad. 

Telling jokes is not just for the listener. We often need to feed our own capacity for laughter and release; something about laughing with others nourishes our souls. 

While our jobs as administrators call on us to handle challenging and serious situations, we must be able to demonstrate and model levity. Especially at times when stress is high. We have all experienced those situations when there was a collective release after a stressful time. We need to laugh. Sometimes bad jokes are so bad that the listener can’t help but chuckle at the absurdity. Sometimes the real laugh doesn’t come from the joke but the delivery. My favorite way to deliver a joke is with a follow-up explanation. Explaining a joke is unnecessary, which makes it hilarious. 

There was this antelope in the wild, and she was excited because she had this date coming up. As she was putting her make-up on, doing her hair, and putting on a brand-new dress, a massive herd of buffalo came and trampled her. She became the world’s first self-dressed, stamped antelope. 

Take a few minutes to consider ways to utilize appropriate humor to enrich your professional life and the well-being of those around you. You don’t have to tell jokes to achieve this, but if you ever need one, feel free to reach out. I have plenty to share.