HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.

Thornton F. Bradshaw Professor of Public Policy, Decision Science, and Management


In popular culture, stress and leadership go hand in hand. We imagine leaders in government, the military and the private sector as not just hard-working, but also hard-pressed, and suffering mightily for it. But is that image true? Certainly, leaders may be extremely busy and have great responsibility. Physiological stress, however, is not simply a tally of one’s daily responsibilities. Despite the common perception of leaders as especially stressed out, leaders may actually be less stressed than nonleaders. First, a bit of biology. One way stress is indexed in scientific research is via levels of cortisol, a stress hormone common to humans and many other animals. We all need a constant, low level of cortisol, as well as periodic boosts, so we can respond appropriately to challenges and opportunities as they arise.


Lerner, Jennifer S., and Gary D. Sherman. "It’s Easy Being King." The New York Times, October 27, 2012.