Let me tell you a secret: I am a workaholic. I tend to become so focused on (and controlling of) my work that I fail to realize there is a whole other world out there.

I assumed that good leaders set good examples by making the office and their careers high priorities. The reality is my assumption is only partly true. Good leaders are also good managers – of employees, time, their lives, etc.

In fact, effective leaders are more efficient and less stressed. They have more time to enjoy their lives because they know the work is being done (after all, they set up the system).

This week, an article in the Harvard Gazette blew my mind (and my ideas about work, responsibility, and leadership). The article described the findings of a recent Harvard University study on stress levels and work.

The study compared stress indicators, including levels of the hormone cortisol and self-reported anxiety, between groups of managers and non-managers.

The results surprised even the researchers: people in leadership positions have lower stress levels than their subordinates.

There was a direct correlation between leadership level/status and reduced stress. So, company directors actually had lower stress levels than managers and the company president was the least stressed of all!

In fact, the most effective and efficient leaders had the lowest amount of stress.

Now here’s the key: the study’s authors concluded that it is all about control! The greater control study participants had over their office lives, the less stress they reported.

That little tidbit of information turned my world upside down, because we can all exert more control over our work-lives.

According to these Harvard researchers, when I don’t delegate, ask for help, or renegotiate my priorities and deadlines, I’m not exerting control and, as my boss once pointed out, I end up just spinning my wheels.

The Harvard study offers hope to those who, like me, sometimes feel like they are drowning in their work and burdened by their position. Effective leaders trust their colleagues, allow them to handle projects, and guide them to completion.

Effective leaders are able to let go, and in doing so, gain greater command. Effective leaders are able to leave the office, go on vacation, go about their lives (or get a life) secure that the world will not fall apart in their absence.

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