This study suggests that those who manage others actually experience less stress - measured through both biological and psychological assessments - than non-leaders. In fact, the stress level seems to go down as executives climb up the corporate ladder. Leaders with more authority, and more freedom to delegate day-to-day oversight, do better on this front than managers below them. In particular, the authors report, the pressures associated with leadership are offset by the fact that upper-tier managers feel a heightened sense of control - a psychological component that is known to reduce stress.
“The stress-buffering effects of leadership are not necessarily conferred to those leaders responsible for managing many people,” the authors write, “but rather, those leaders who occupy a position characterized by many total subordinates and... who feel that they have substantial authority over those subordinates.”
In other words, it is the blend of power and delegation afforded to higher-ranking leaders that makes the difference, the authors argue. Day-to-day oversight of subordinates via a coterie of direct reports insulates these leaders from stress while it also instills a deeper sense of control.
The authors point out that they are not necessarily claiming a simple cause-and-effect link. For example, people with low anxiety levels might be well suited to be leaders, and may be more inclined to aim for top-tier jobs. Presumably, though, even those managers will get a boost from the many psychological benefits that come with top leadership roles.As researchers are wont to say, This warrants further investigation. But these findings are intriguing, indeed.