Leadership links to stress

Effective team leadership may play an important part in reducing employee stress, while ineffective or ’laissez-faire’ leadership style may lead to increased depression in employees.

These are the findings of a study which was presented today, Wednesday 7 January at the British Psychological Society’s Division of Occupational Psychology Annual Conference at The Stratford Moathouse Hotel, Stratford-upon-Avon.

The study by Jonathon Bell and Dr Angela Carter of the Institute of Work Psychology, University of Sheffield, was based on a survey of NHS Operating theatre staff including surgeons and nursing staff. All the participants worked in teams with between 6-26 people, and they were all doing jobs that have high levels of stress and frequent sickness absence.

The researchers found that while inactive or ‘laissez-faire’ leaders increased depression, two alternative styles of effective leadership seem to produce similar benefits for employees.

‘Transformational’ leaders inspire and intellectually stimulate employees. ‘Transactional’ leaders are more likely to provide rewards and assistance in return for effort. The research suggests that both types of team leaders have employees with greater enthusiasm and better psychological well being than the ’laissez-faire’ or inactive leader.

The researchers also found that leaders who combine both transactional and transformational styles (for example, by treating employees as individuals and expressing their satisfaction when employees meet expectations) are likely to have the most enthusiastic employees who feel they are well supported.

The study also suggested ways in which good team leaders may reduce levels of employee stress.

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