Can Good Leadership Make You Healthier?

“Feel the city breakin' and everybody shakin'

And we're stayin' alive, stayin' alive

Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive, stayin' alive

Ah, ha, ha, ha, stayin' alive”

Staying Alive by the Bee Gees’ (click here for the song)


Photo by Jony Ariadi on Unsplash


This week while providing feedback to a client on the Global Leadership Wellbeing Scale I was reminded of the construct of vitality and energy. That one of the core resources all leaders need is to look after their bodies so that they have the energy to “perform at their peak in all aspects of life and work”. Regular readers would know that a few years ago I blogged on the impact of exercise, sleep and diet on psychological wellbeing (click here for my past blog)


After the session I began to ponder why is this aspect of wellbeing ignored and often misunderstood?



"The whole idea of the ‘Life. Be in it.’ campaign is to teach us how to behave, what to eat and drink and how to spend our time if we want to have life and have it more abundantly.” Historian Manning Clark, 1991



Logically, we know that the body is the vessel that carries us through the world and thus to meet the demands of life and work it is essential to ensure our bodies are as well functioning as possible. The internet, social media and book shops are filled with information about improving our physical health which is often based on pseudoscience and unsubstantiated fads. Interestingly, it is an area of life where we crave the silver bullet and often common sense seems to go out the window.


In Australia in the 1970’s there was a big public health campaign to to educate Australians about exercise in a fun and non-threatening manner, via community announcements on television, cartoons in newspapers and community-based programming. As I watched a few commercials I was reminded that the key messages are as relevant today as they were all those years ago.



Click here for the Obesity commercial, and here for the walking commercial


Whilst I am not a doctor, dietician, exercise physiologist, physiotherapist, optometrist or any other allied health or medical expert to give any specific advice. The crux of taking care proactively of your physical health is a visit to your Doctor, remember to please discuss the annual check-ups that you may have missed last year because of Covid.


What impact does the leader have on physical health?


Regular readers would be aware that poor leadership has negative implications for psychological wellbeing. What is additionally concerning is the research that demonstrated that a lack of support from supervisors to be problematic for workforce health, independent of known psychosocial work stress factors and conventional risk factors. In order to understand the relationship between leadership and physical health, a study was conducted with over 3000 industrial workers. The researchers found that the lack of supportive leadership was associated with poor health and that this association held true for nearly all subgroups independent of several factors including work-related stress, socioeconomic status, and lifestyle. On a positive note, supportive leaders have a substantial impact on work climate and organisational culture. Their ability to react to and reduce stressful conditions in the workplace, to improve role clarity, meaningfulness, opportunity for development and job satisfaction, serves to improve wellbeing, general health and lowers the risk of heart disease. Supportive leaders can actually improve the physical health of their staff. The leaders their ability to appropriately react to stress and harmful situations, promotes regenerative rather than stress-related practices in employees. In addition, employees who perceive their leaders to be supportive are actually more physically active. Recently, in another cross-sectional sample of 32,770 European workers, found that positive leadership behaviour (e.g., participative leadership) was associated with lower levels of stress and higher physical health.


Final Thoughts

The Bee Gees sang about overcoming hardship to stay "Alive”, personally, I am motivated to enable my clients to maximise their physical health so that they can experience the vitality and energy to really live and enjoy both life and work.

Whilst I am not a doctor, dietician, exercise physiologist, physiotherapist, optometrist or any other allied health or medical expert to give any specific advice. The crux of taking care proactively of your physical health is a visit to your Doctor, remember to please discuss the annual check-ups that you may have missed last year because of Covid.



References:


https://www.glwswellbeing.com/


https://collection.maas.museum/object/12208


https://www.nma.gov.au/defining-moments/resources/life-be-in-it-launch


https://theconversation.com/tooth-or-consequences-even-during-a-pandemic-avoiding-the-dentist-can-be-bad-for-your-oral-health-152742


https://www.healthline.com/health-news/why-dentists-are-reporting-a-low-rate-of-covid-19


Schmidt, B., Loerbroks, A., Herr, R.M., Wilson, M.G., Jarczok, M.N., Litaker, D., Mauss, D., Bosch, J.A. and Fischer, J.E. (2013). Associations Between Supportive Leadership and Employees Self-Rated Health in an Occupational Sample. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21(5), pp.750–756.


Schmidt, B., Herr, R.M., Jarczok, M.N., Baumert, J., Lukaschek, K., Emeny, R.T. and Ladwig, K.-H. (2018). Lack of supportive leadership behavior predicts suboptimal self-rated health independent of job strain after 10 years of follow-up: findings from the population-based MONICA/KORA study. International Archives of Occupational and Environmental Health, 91(5), pp.623–631.



https://www.ovariancancer.net.au/page/134/signs-and-symptoms?gclid=Cj0KCQjw38-DBhDpARIsADJ3kjmHb4n1w4TU7XYU1c_oJhkYt2jG19-wIkyfFnoY8_oHjsHT_zNZfDsaAg7KEALw_wcB


Wilson, M.G., Dejoy, D.M., Vandenberg, R.J., Richardson, H.A. and Mcgrath, A.L. (2004). Work characteristics and employee health and well-being: Test of a model of healthy work organization. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 77(4), pp.565–588.



Nielsen, K., Randall, R., Yarker, J. and Brenner, S.-O. (2008). The effects of transformational leadership on followers’ perceived work characteristics and psychological well-being: A longitudinal study. Work & Stress, 22(1), pp.16–32.

Montano, D., Reeske, A., Franke, F. and Hüffmeier, J. (2016). Leadership, followers’ mental health and job performance in organizations: A comprehensive meta-analysis from an occupational health perspective. Journal of Organizational Behavior, 38(3), pp.327–350.


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