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The Power of Relationships in Leadership: Insights from the Harvard Study of Adult Development

You may be familiar with the long-running Harvard University Study of Adult Development, which has been ongoing for over 80 years. What it has uncovered is profound: one of the keys to a long, healthy, and happy life is our relationships and social connections.

Here’s a short video I recorded on how to apply these insights to your role as a leader and life more broadly.



The Link With Leadership

But how does this relate to leadership, you ask? Well, perhaps more than you think.

The study suggests that having close relationships, both within and outside of work, acts as a stress regulator. It reduces stress and helps us manage it better.

Why is this important? Because we know that prolonged chronic stress can lead to various health issues, such as diabetes, heart conditions, arthritis, and cognitive decline. The link between stress, health, and relationships is undeniable.


Into The Workplace

Now, let’s zoom in on the workplace. As leaders or anyone striving for productivity, we often find ourselves expending significant mental energy to regulate our emotions.

Whether it’s dealing with stress or navigating trust issues with colleagues, this emotional regulation consumes precious cognitive bandwidth. This is the same brainpower we rely on for virtually every task and decision at work.

When we prioritise building strong relationships with our colleagues and staying connected with friends outside of work, something remarkable happens. We free up mental resources.

This surplus brainpower allows us to think more clearly, make better decisions, and unleash our creativity to tackle challenges with fresh perspectives.


A Question of Prioritisation

However, it’s essential to acknowledge that maintaining these relationships can sometimes take a backseat amidst the demands of work and personal responsibilities.

I, too, fell into this trap, prioritising business and family while unintentionally neglecting friendships.

The consequence? A negative impact on my mental health, requiring significant effort to address.


The Way Forward

Leadership is undoubtedly challenging. It can feel isolating and overwhelming at times.

But by prioritising relationships—both within and outside of work—we can alleviate some of that stress. This not only makes us more effective leaders but also fosters a supportive environment for those we lead.

So, let’s remember to take care of ourselves and nurture those key relationships.


One More Thing To Do Right Now

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Until next time, keep looking after those you have the privilege and responsibility to lead.

Your coach,

Corporate Whack Attack

Photo by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

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