Dr. O’Neal talks to students about his humor and leadership research

February 25, 2013 in Leadership, News by Jonathan Machemehl

The Southern Methodist University campus was livelier than normal on a Friday night to hear a keynote speech about academic research in humor. The keynote speaker of the night for the North East Texas Humor Research Conference, hosted by SMU and Texas A&M University – Commerce, helped draw in the large crowd.

Dr. Shaquille O’Neal, also known as Shaq, was the focus of the keynote where he spoke about his academic work in humor and leadership. While Dr. O’Neal was open to answer any questions from the audience, filled mostly with students, the questions focused on his academic work.

Dr. O’Neal received his doctoral degree in education at Barry University in May 2012 with his capstone project focusing on how CEOs and business leaders use humor in the workplace.

Dr. O’Neal emphasized multiple times throughout the night that he did not find himself to be funny but the crowd erupted in laughter numerous times throughout the hour-long event.

During the multiple questions, Dr. O’Neal pointed out the best leaders use humor for the right reasons and right relationships. He pointed out how with his male employees it is all out there but with his female employees you have to be gentle. The reason for the difference he explained was because of his respect for women and the way he was raised by his mother.

“You have to be socially aware and ethically aware during times of humor speech,” said Dr. O’Neal.

When managing his employees, he said humor is key in helping them distress and to point out situations where they make mistakes. He sees his job as a manager not a micro-manager. Dr. O’Neal hires people who are better than him in their field and expects them to be able to do their job without him having to micro-manage them.

Dr. O’Neal has been a pioneer with his use of Twitter including being the first verified celebrity and his random acts campaign. He pointed out how he uses his Twitter for mainly humor purposes to help uplift his followers and fans.

Dr. O’Neal how humor is an important part of his brand and he uses humor in all aspects of his life including his work on commercials and other public events. Specifically pointing out his work with the Buick commercial and knowing the main question would be whether he could fit in the vehicle.

At the end of the night, the audience walked away realizing the over 7 foot retired basketball player has a side which is not usually seen during his time as an analyst on Inside the NBA or other public events. Dr. O’Neal showed the hard work he put into earning his doctorate and he has earned the title.

Earlier in the evening, Dr. O’Neal held a press conference where only student media was allowed to participate and a reception where he posed for photos with guests.