Leadership Induced Stress

We all know that stress is a major killer. But did you know that bad leaders are a leading cause of heart attacks and other illnesses? You can change the dynamic.

Think your boss is killing you?  You may be right.  But you can stop him.



My colleague in the UK, Allan Freed, forwarded to me this morning a must-read from today’s BBC website. The article discusses new Swedish research on the inescapable connection between poor leadership and stress induced illness.  This latest work proves that poor leadership literally causes heart attacks in a significant percentage of male reports.  What more relevant topic for today’s stressed-out workplace – be they leader or led? 


The bottom line: bad bosses can quite literally cause heart attacks and other serious, even life-threatening illnesses. If you are the leader, you must be constantly aware of the effect that you have on those around you, for good and for ill.  And if your boss is making you sick, act to make yourself well.


Here’s a way.   Here in the US, Dr. Herbert Benson and his colleagues at the Harvard Medical School are considered to be the pioneers in the West in finding and using the positive connection between mind and body.  Quick history: starting undercover in the 1970s, Benson sought out the “wisdom traditions” of the world which claimed to benefit health (meditation, yoga, prayer, chanting and the like).  He identified what these belief systems had in common (for example, repetitive words or motions), then applied Western medical techniques and metrics to test their effects on blood pressure and other biological activities.  When he found that the connections were quite real, his passion became convincing Western skeptics that people can manage their health and well-being without drugs. Benson and his colleagues have developed a number of very simple, completely natural, utterly non-pharmaceutical techniques for reducing stress. His work can now be found that the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind Body Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. 



I took his course a few years ago and learned some very easy, practical tips for reducing stress.  The goal is to invoke the Relaxation Response (the opposite of the famous Fight or Flight Response).  Here are some techniques that I was taught at the time that do not appear on the public website:

·         Cultivate an “attitude of gratitude”

·         Avoid “negaholics” and stress carriers

·         Volunteer

·         Join a support group


·         Find time just to play

·         Yoga


So, go out there and relax.  And don’t let anybody stop you.


For more on the importance of personal self-management for a leader, please check out our book:  Leadership Code: 5 Rules to Lead By.