Becoming and staying psychologically healthy is important for all of us, especially leaders. Recently Alyson Byrne and Angela Dionisi, Queens School of Business, Canada, and colleagues reported a study that focused on the relationship between transformative leadership and psychological health of the leader. Byrne et al. wondered if leaders who had less psychological well-being were less effective. They measured depression, anxiety, and workplace alcohol consumption in leaders by self-report. Then they examined to what degree these were correlated with subordinates’ perceptions of transformative leadership and abusive supervision.
The researchers chose to measure transformative leadership because it is the most studied form of leadership the past two decades. Transformative leaders are good role models, inspirational, intellectually stimulating, and relate well to others individually. They studied 172 pairs of leader and direct reports who completed online questionnaires. Their findings and conclusions:
- “Leaders’ depressive symptoms, anxiety, and workplace alcohol consumption were all independently negatively related to transformational leadership. (p. 353)
- They were all positively related to abusive supervision.
- The “depleted leader” is less effective.
- Leaders should be mindful of their own well-being.
- Organizations should provide resources to help leaders sustain their well-being
1. I found this an interesting study worthy of replicating with other methods. Bryne et al. are probably correct that we have spent little time or resources studying the well-being of leaders and how this relates to effective leadership.
2. Are leaders the best judge of their own well-being? Usually perhaps, but not always. I think it is possible to be stressed or depressed to the point of affecting performance and yet not be aware of it. In fact, it might be easier for subordinates and other significant others to recognize. Having someone we trust who can give us honest feedback, even unsolicited, should be helpful.
3. Bryne, Dionisi, and colleagues’ review of workplace alcohol consumption was very thought-provoking, a topic with which I have little familiarity. I will address their review findings in another blog.
Byrne, A., Dionisi, A. M., Barling, J. , Ayers, A., Robertson, J., Lys, R., Wylie, J., & Dupré, K. (2014). The depleted leader: The influence of leaders’ diminished psychological resources on leadership behaviors, The Leadership Quarterly, 25, 344-357.
“Sad Woman” by Jiri Hodan. Image in public domain. http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sad_Woman.jpg