“The stress-buffering effects of leadership are not necessarily conferred to those leaders responsible for managing many people,” the authors write, “but rather, those leaders who occupy a position characterized by many total subordinates and...who feel that they have substantial authority over those subordinates.”
In other words, it is the blend of power and delegation afforded to higher-ranking leaders that makes the difference, the authors argue. Day-to-day oversight of subordinates via a coterie of direct reports insulates these leaders from stress while it also instills a deeper sense of control.
The authors point out that they are not necessarily claiming a simple cause-and-effect link. For example, people with low anxiety levels might be well suited to be leaders, and may be more inclined to aim for top-tier jobs. Presumably, though, even those managers will get a boost from the many psychological benefits that come with top leadership roles.
Despite the heightened responsibilities and time demands associated with leadership, managers who oversee other employees experience less stress — as measured by biological and psychological tests — than lower-level workers. And the more power and control leaders have, relative to managers farther down the corporate hierarchy, the less anxiety they feel.