Behind closed doors, leaders let down their guard and collectively exhaled. For the more significant part of their day, they have to plaster a smile on their face look confident, collected, and in control. However, deep inside, they have their concerns and frustrations. Like others in the organization, they feel tired from the seemingly never-ending pressures. Leadership positions are hard to maintain when the mind and body aren't in a good place.
Unfortunately, leaders can appear invincible, but their health is just as fragile as everyone else's. Leadership roles demand a great deal of time, attention, and energy from an individual who, in turn, needs to have a positive outlook in life to be productive at work. Managers often have higher levels of stress when compared to non-managers. The nature of being a manager also means you need to meet deadlines, solve problems, encourage others and give constructive feedback, which all add up for a stressful experience. Stress not only causes burnout but may also impact physical well-being, such as weight gain.
So, as a leader, how will you respect your humanity while leading with strength? One of the keys to achieving balance involves analyzing your companies wellness culture. You might be wondering what I am referring to. Well, there are several components of wellness culture.
Healthy Leadership: First of all, it means that the company values health and well-being when hiring its employees. For example, they offer flexibility regarding working hours and family leave to support healthy lifestyles for employees. Leadership also models and encourages self-care to stay healthy and not burn out.
Workplace changes may include structural changes such as longer breaks between shifts and making the working environment as comfortable as possible. Leadership also may implement changes to the work itself, such as less deadline pressure or an improved decision-making process. Leadership should encourage and expect employees to take breaks during their day and provide facilities to do so (such as a break area with comfortable seating). Leadership can also communicate that they appreciate it when employees do not come into work 'unwell' and allow and support sick leave, reinforcing this message of caring about health.
A healthy workplace culture: Health promotion is critical at all levels in leadership positions, from helping to set up wellness programs talking about leader behaviors you expect from your staff to reinforcing positive messaging around mental health within groups/teams. Leadership must make sure these discourses are part of the resources available: Some companies provide onsite services for yoga classes or medical care, which can help employees get involved in healthier activities outside work during their time.
Health education programs should be readily available to employees, and effort should be made to incorporate some of these teachings regularly. It is best not to wait for a special event or the following mental health awareness month to have this discussion.
Leadership positions tend to be very stressful, and if workers aren't allowed to take time off when they need it, they'll eventually burn out. By giving employees some flexibility in their schedules, leaders can help them cope better with stress. Although not free from stress themselves, well-being exercises such as meditation can be taught to the entire population to help any struggling individual.
Fostering a supportive work environment is also crucial. Leadership roles often add more responsibility on top of the workload, and it's easy for workers to feel alone or isolated in these circumstances. When leadership treats its people like equals instead of subordinates, this helps create an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable asking for help without being judged. Therefore, the communication style during meetings must be respectful.
So, to help themselves, leaders need to lead by example and create a wellness culture. In helping others, a leader will benefit themselves and help avoid burnout. Create the expectation that health and wellness are a priority, and model this to your employees. Then, change the narrative that the one who stays after hours constantly and stays up late working on projects is necessarily the most dedicated. From my experience, that isn't necessarily the case, as some people use work as an escape from a painful reality. I will leave this topic for another discussion.