A National Geographic special on stress (link) that repeated last week on PBS made some interesting points about the effect of hierarchy in society on our health. Two studies, one on baboons in Africa and one on bureaucrats in England, made a connection between low levels of authority and high levels of stress. Stress hormones were more prevalent in those with less power in both humans and baboons resulting in serious health issues. Does lack of control over our personal or work life make us sick?
The most striking of all the discoveries was made as the result of an unfortunate accident. The baboon troupe fed on Tuberculosis infected garbage and soon the alpha males in the group died. The survivors, dominated by females and less aggressive males, developed a more laid back, low stress culture where most of the nasty confrontations ceased and were replaced by a higher level of supportive social interaction. Young males joining the group quickly adopted the new culture. Do alpha males make us sick?
Unfortunately, it isn't just alpha males who stir things up - women who want to get ahead often use the same aggressive tactics. Instead of bringing the strengths of the feminine, they think they need to be "tough" like men. My experiences with this type of boss have caused more than a little stress in my life.
I have always thought we need more of the strengths of the feminine in our leaders whether they are male or female - compassion, creativity, cooperation, inner strength, intuition, and intelligence tempered by humility. Now I have the scientific evidence to prove it.