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2 Leadership Traits that Make Leaders Miserable

There are many important questions about leadership.

But until recently, there has been a lot less research on leadership traits that make a leader happy or unhappy.

What leadership traits make a leader happy or unhappy?

This is a vital question to answer.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • Employee 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 leadership traits, a more complete picture starts to emerge.

1. Being disorganized

What’s the main thing that makes leaders unhappy?

Feeling overwhelmed.

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.

Personality matters.

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. As a result of this leadership trait, they’re also much less likely to be abusive, which is 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 this leadership trait 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.