Want to Be an Effective Leader? Get a Full Night’s Sleep

A series of recent studies highlights numerous ways that sleep deprivation negatively affects the ability of leaders to do their job properly. (Take the hint!)

Want to get a little better at leading your organization? A good night’s sleep might help.

In fact, a not-so-good night’s sleep might actually be a big problem when it comes to your leadership capabilities. Recent research from Iowa State University finds that people who lose a couple of hours of sleep might actually be more irritable, more likely to get angry, and possibly less able to adapt to tough situations.

The study researched two groups of people—one that got a normal night’s sleep and one that cut the amount of sleep they got by two to four hours a night. The study subjected them to irritating conditions and found that those who were tired tended to react more negatively to the situations.

“Despite typical tendencies to get somewhat used to irritating conditions—an uncomfortable shirt or a barking dog—sleep-restricted individuals actually showed a trend toward increased anger and distress, essentially reversing their ability to adapt to frustrating conditions over time,” researcher Zlatan Krizan said in a news release.

(Of course, as many association pros know, often the irritating conditions are more dramatic and nuanced than an ill-fitting shirt.)

Another problem that lack of sleep might cause? A tendency toward increased risk. A separate 2017 study from researchers at Switzerland’s University of Zurich found that as people keep putting off needed rest, they become more and more likely to take bigger risks as the sleep deprivation builds.

And the scariest part? Apparently, the issue was least obvious to the people in the study who were becoming sleep-deprived, who said they didn’t see any difference.

“We therefore do not notice that we are acting riskier when suffering from a lack of sleep,” the study’s coauthor, neurology professor Christian Baumann, told Forbes.

And then there’s the problem of charisma, which is also negatively affected by lack of sleep. In a 2016 study, researchers, including University of Washington Business Professor Christopher Barnes, found that sleep deprivation has a direct effect on a leader’s ability to be seen as authoritative.

“People don’t think, ‘Wow, that guy must be working hard to be so tired,’” Barnes told Inc. last year. “Instead what they see is, ‘This person is not especially articulate. They are not looking very smart. They are not looking very charismatic.’ You are just much less impressive when you are sleep-deprived.”

So, even if you have a big task in front of you, don’t skimp on sleep. You might just be shooting yourself in the foot.

(g-stockstudio/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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