With so much energy and purpose focused towards the well-being of employees, we also need to remember to include leadership or risk them becoming unduly affected while their juniors are supported through times of change.

OC Tanner found that only 15% of employees feel like their leaders can effectively manage future change and disruption. If employees cannot trust their leaders to lead them through difficult times, it is only more likely that any attempts to bring about lasting and significant change will simply fall flat. What’s more, if a leader is put in this position where they cannot succeed, it is likely to only result in the well-being and confidence of the leader being affected.

Why is well-being important as a leader?

four people laughing in an office

Well-being is as important for leaders as it is for any other person employed within a company. Employee well-being schemes are set up for the use and benefit of all under an organisation’s umbrella. This includes those in leadership positions. Though leaders focus on those working below them in a company’s hierarchy, it is vital that everyone takes the time to ensure that their workplace well-being is treated with the right care and respect.

At the end of the day, leaders are also human. They also feel the full range of human emotions, including stress and fear, and their emotional well-being will become impacted by this if not addressed over time.

How can you function effectively as a leader if you are not addressing your own health and well-being? Those in positions of power should always lead by example, and you simply cannot expect to do that if your own mental health has not been adequately cared for.

If a leader’s emotional well-being is compromised, they cannot be expected to make fair and balanced decisions that will bring the benefits and change needed within the organisation.

What are the challenges leaders face that impact their well-being?

Those in a position of leadership are just as susceptible to challenges to their well-being as those further down the corporate ladder. Many factors could lead to an impact on well-being, but common challenges may include:

  • A lack of support system
  • Poor delegation
  • Perfectionism
  • Overworking

Any of these factors could have a significant impact on leadership well-being if not addressed over a long period of time. With poor delegation and perfectionism in place, a leader might be left thinking they alone have the means and the power to get a project across the line. Improper management of time and attention can quickly lead to overworking and burnout as a leader tries to compensate for their perceived challenges.

DDI found that 72% of leaders feel “used up” by the end of their working day, a clear indicator that they are headed towards a state of burnout if they are not prepared to address their behaviour.

Likewise, a leader might face challenges caused by a lack of communication in their team. When undergoing a long and demanding period of change, some resistance from employees is, more often than not, to be expected. However, a refusal to address this change resistance – from both leaders and employees – can lead to a challenge for those in leadership as no progress is made. Communication can ground to a halt, and it can feel like there is no way forward.

If employees feel a disconnect between themselves and their supposed leader, it can quickly create issues that should actually be easy to negotiate. If a team regularly practices open communication and accountability under effective, trusted leadership, all members should feel supported and able to complete their tasks – and this includes the leaders themselves.

change leader in an meeting

How do effective leaders maintain mental and physical well-being?

To be able to lead effectively, anyone in a position of leadership needs to ensure that they maintain both their physical and mental well-being. If they wish to see their employees take ownership of their well-being, it is best to lead by example.

Mental and physical well-being are two of the easiest areas to tackle within the full spectrum of mindfulness and well-being – and they are also two areas that can have the greatest impact on someone’s mindset.

Physical well-being for leadership

For a leader, taking care of their team starts with taking care of themselves. Small actions such as visibly taking breaks and encouraging movement can make all the difference to the motivation and morale of your team. When they see a leader engage in such tasks and encourage them to do so, they can be influenced to also build such routine into their working day.

A leader also needs to ensure that they take care of their physical health. A great example can be found, for example, during lunch – taking a proper lunchtime break away from their workstation to consume healthy food can be a great influence on a team.

Mental well-being for leadership

Though physical well-being is incredibly important, mental health is also a vital part of ensuring that leaders are properly set up for success.

To start, leaders need to ensure that they maintain a positive work-life balance. To do so, they need to ensure that they have those crucial open lines of communication with their team, and that they need to know how to delegate efficiently. By giving their employees the agency needed to take care of their own tasks, a leader can prioritise their workload whilst knowing that other aspects of the project are being correctly handled.

Ensuring that leaders also have access to relevant leadership development training can be of vital importance, too. Alhough leaders may have a good level of understanding of practice and protocol in their chosen industry, there may be areas of their leadership development that are sorely lacking.

DDI found that 63% of managers believed that managing successful change is a critical skill to learn, but only 29% of leaders had received training in this area. Adequate training and the provision of tools and strategies can help boost their confidence and give them more faith in their skills.

Woman writing down some notes

What are the leadership behaviours for well-being?

While leaders need to ensure that they set up good systems within their teams to allow for effective communication and support with workloads, it is vital that they also focus on their own behaviours. By looking inward and developing good leadership behaviours for well-being, they can then bring this behaviour forth externally and better serve their team and colleagues. As leaders choose to nurture patterns of good behaviour, they can strive to build a happy team with positive interpersonal relationships, trust, and good work ethics.

The Center for Creative Leadership categorises health and well-being across six areas with examples of the types of behaviour that can foster a workplace focused on well-being and positivity. By actively choosing to internalise these behaviours and project them to their team, a leader can build a positive mindset and an outlook that inspires collaboration amongst their team.

1. Purpose

A sense of purpose helps to centre employees and remind them of what they are trying to achieve with their work. Positive thinking can often start with little more than recognition. Choosing to check in with employees and ensure that their issues and difficulties are recognised helps to align everyone and ensure that all feel seen and supported.

2. Growth

A growth mindset is vital for ensuring that employees feel like they have room to grow and flourish within the organisation. Opportunities to learn and advance ourselves help us to move forward. Leaders need to celebrate not only wins but also learn from losses across the team. By reflecting on how they themselves meet these challenges, they will be able to create a more cooperative and understanding workplace.

3. Health

Prioritising physical health is a must. People cannot stay switched on all the time; we actively need breaks away from our work. Leaders need to actively embrace setting boundaries such as not sending messages outside of office hours, taking vacations without responding to emails or other messages, or even scheduling meetings outside the office for a chance to stretch some legs and get a bit of fresh air.

4. Agency

Leaders with poor delegation skills may end up inadvertently taking agency away from employees, potentially leading to micromanagement and poor job satisfaction. By acknowledging an employee’s purpose, a leader may find an easy way to offer them agency in their actions.

5. Connection

Does your team actually have a connection, or are you merely a group of strangers who complete tasks together each day? By fostering interpersonal relationships and creating bonds between team members, a leader creates tangible bonds of trust and support. When employees and employers alike feel comfortable, whether they are sharing a joke or asking for help, everyone benefits.

6. Resilience

Change brings disruption, and this is uncomfortable for everyone. Leaders need to develop and show employees good levels of resilience, and to do so, they need to have an understanding of well-being. Resilience and well-being feed into each other – when one is high, it improves the other – and a resilient leader will encourage team members to seek out their own paths of resilience in stressful times.

change leaders in a business meeting

Why is it important to support the well-being of leaders?

Though it might seem like the above behaviours have more to do with supporting the team than the leader, they are still important. By embedding them in a team’s structure and everyday behaviours, a leader works to create a thoughtful and considerate workplace with a team that naturally cares about each other and recognises issues as they occur. This creates an environment that is supportive of all, and that includes the leader who set them down in the first place. When the leader requires extra support, the team should intuitively step forward, ready to offer it.

The responsibility of a leader’s well-being is not wholly on themselves. Whilst well-being always begins with the self, an organisation is also a community. Employees should be aware of the needs and expectations of their supervisors.

Leaders need to ensure that projects are on track – whether they are part of a change initiative or just one of the everyday tasks expected as part of their workload. Good leadership well-being leads to a cycle of positive behaviour, and a positive leadership style creates higher job satisfaction and better-performing teams, which in turn leads to better leader well-being and results in a positive outlook, ultimately leading back to that overall positive leadership style.

Every organisation should aim to create a workplace that is welcoming to all and provides support to workers at every level. Whether an employee is the most junior intern or a C-level executive, they have the right to feel supported in the workplace.

two women in a meeting

Now it’s your turn.

Anyone in a managerial or leadership position is looked upon to bring guidance to those in their team. This is true no matter whether things are smooth sailing and targets have been met, or it is a period of disruption and change.

Leaders need to prioritise their health and well-being if they wish to see success throughout their team. No employee will feel empowered to tackle challenges and work to their fullest potential if they see their supervisor struggling to do so. Leaders deserve to have their well-being nurtured with the same attentiveness that we give to other aspects of employee well-being.

With a happy, confident, and well-rested leader, employees can feel satisfied and empowered to take on any challenge that might come their way.

ChangingPoint offers a unique change management programme using the latest thinking from behavioural science to help leaders engage, align, and inspire their people through organisational change. Learn more about our Universal Change Leadership Programme.

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Written by Jayne Ruff

Jayne Ruff, Occupational Psychologist & Managing Director at ChangingPoint. To find out more about how ChangingPoint can help you align minds to transform your business, get in touch.

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