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Does the Hardest Worker Make for the Worst Leader?

So you think you’ve got what it takes to reach the top? You’re a hardened project manager who puts in the time and gets going when the going gets tough. Well, at some point (maybe that point is now) Ron Friedman of the Harvard Business Review recommends you lighten up a bit. Take the weekend off for a change. Get some rest. As a manager or leader, you’re chances of career survival will improve. Here’s why.

Winning Too Much

In his book What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, executive coach Marshall Goldsmith cautions against an unhinged high achiever mentality that may culminate in what he describes as goal “obsession.” Other strange concepts like winning too much and adding too much value come into play in Goldsmith’s book. The issue arises not from valuing success, but from a failure to disengage where disengagement becomes necessary for furthering success in your career.

New Terrain, New Vehicle

In short, physical and mental stress will take a toll on your interpersonal skills. Where technical prowess once won the day, dealing with people becomes more and more valuable as you climb through the ranks. One could use a simple analogy: on the ground you need to be a tank, but in the sky the tank treads and armor will weigh you down. At the higher levels you need light wings and you need to come down frequently to refuel or you’ll likely crash. Friedman is more literal:

The more senior you are in an organization, the more frequently you’re called upon to make complex decisions. And when it comes to navigating uncertainty and negotiating risk, the research is clear: Decision quality plummets when we’re tired. The more choices you face, the more critical it is for you to restock your energy. Overwork and the sleep deprivation it fosters prevent you from seeing problems clearly and identifying creative solutions.

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About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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