There are many important questions about leadership.
- What makes a leader more effective?
- What makes a leader loved or hated?
- What makes a leader fair or unfair?
But until recently, there has been a lot less research on what makes a leader happy or unhappy, themselves.
What makes a leader happy or unhappy?
This is a vital question to answer.
- Happiness is an important factor in individual performance and productivity.
- Leaders can have a strong influence on other people’s happiness.
- Firms with happier employees have higher profits and productivity, better customer satisfaction, better safety records, and lower turnover.
That’s a start.
When we consider 2 important personality traits, a more complete picture starts to emerge.
1. Being disorganized
What’s the main thing that makes leaders unhappy?
Swamped. Hectic. Busy. Overworked.
Psychologists call it “role overload.” It happens to most leaders.
Not too surprisingly, this can lead to strong feelings of frustration. Those feelings of frustration often lead to abusive behaviors. And these abusive behaviors can undermine the very culture of an organization—leading to a variety of negative outcomes including “emotional exhaustion” and ”burnout.”
But role overload doesn’t frustrate every leader.
Research has shown that leaders who are more conscientious—those who tend to be efficient and well-organized—don’t have the same intense feelings of frustration in response to role overload.
(And as a result, they’re also much less likely to be abusive, which is generally a good thing.)
2. Being rude
We know that leaders have to be at least a little bit rude.
They need to stand up for themselves.
Unassertive leaders are seen as “pushovers” and they usually can’t get things done.
But there are major downsides to being more than just a little bit rude.
Being a leader can make you feel powerful. Those feelings of power can lead to abusive behaviors. But what’s less obvious is how this influences leaders.
Research has shown that it also makes leaders miserable.
When leaders feel more powerful and then act more abusively at work, they end up feeling less competent and less fulfilled later. And they’re significantly less able to relax at home.
But power doesn’t make every leader turn mean.
Again, personality matters.
Leaders who are more agreeable—those who tend to be polite, kind, and considerate—don’t respond to feeling powerful in the same way.
They don’t become as abusive when they feel powerful. Thus, more agreeable leaders tend to feel more competent and fulfilled than their rude counterparts. Plus they’re better able to relax at the end of the day.
Being nice makes leaders feel better too.