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Rajesh Raj
Rajesh Raj

Managing Partner EMEA

Published 26 May 2021

Improving leadership health and wellbeing

Performing leadership roles can be highly rewarding. But as Voltaire, Winston Churchill, and many others since have suggested, with great power comes great responsibility.

Improving leadership health and wellbeing

In all sectors, leaders are held to much higher standards and often face considerable scrutiny when things don’t go according to plan. The global pandemic has also created some unique leadership challenges that have exacerbated the stress, anxiety and fatigue that many leaders experience. It’s little surprise that BUPA’s Executive Wellbeing Index reports that over three quarters of business leaders have suffered from poor mental health in recent times1.

In response to these growing leadership pressures, Raj Rajesh, a Partner at Gerard Daniels, has seen a growing focus on organisational health and wellbeing. “The importance of prioritising health and wellness is a conversation that we are increasingly having with clients, but to see real change we need to be having many more conversations like this at leadership level” says Raj. “It’s important for businesses and individual leaders to appreciate the value of workplace wellbeing, and to understand how to reduce the toll that leadership can take.”

Productivity vs. health and wellness

While most organisations try to create a culture of health and wellness, the scale has traditionally tipped more towards productivity and profits. For many businesses finding the right balance remains a challenge, but Raj believes the two objectives needn’t be mutually exclusive.

“Fundamentally I think most businesses understand that healthy minds and healthy bodies are important for maintaining healthy and high performing teams,” says Raj. “But the need to achieve both productivity and wellbeing, and the importance of the relationship between the two is something that COVID has put right in front of us.”

“Both organisations and individual leaders have been forced to rethink and reprioritise health and wellness at work,” Raj explains. “And in doing so we have also discovered just how beneficial this approach can be for both productivity and performance.”

Health and wellness during COVID

The business disruption caused by COVID has had a significant impact on the workload for leaders as they manage the pandemic response. “Without any precedent to fall back on leaders have had to really step up to support the workforce as it navigates these challenges and finds new ways of working,” says Raj.

Managing health and wellness across an organisation while working remotely has required a mindset change from Raj. “Without the face-to-face communication that we have come to rely on leaders have had to be even more empathetic and attentive to the wellbeing of others, and mindful of the different circumstances and issues that can affect people when they are working in different environments.”

Permission to put health and wellness first

Despite the additional pressure and growing workload that leaders have experienced during this time, it has also been a catalyst for real and positive change.

“To continue serving our organisations we have had to consciously focus on staying physically and mentally healthy, and support our teams in doing so too,” says Raj. “Wellness means different things to different people, so this could be getting enough sleep, managing personal problems before they impact other areas, or simply taking time out to calm the mind.”

“As leaders we have also had to become more self-aware and transparent around our own workload, and more proactive in seeking help when it is needed,” Raj continues. “As leaders if we don’t prioritise these things at some point we all run the risk of burning out.”

Organisational support

While taking individual responsibility is important, business also play a vital role in creating work practices and workplace culture that can support health and wellbeing.

To promote health and wellbeing people at all levels within an organisation must feel comfortable speaking out about how things are going, knowing that they will be supported without stigma or fear of career repercussion. Businesses must also consistently ask the right questions, and be open to receiving honest feedback.

“As a society achievement is all too often put ahead of health and wellness, even though we know this approach is not sustainable in the long run,” Raj concludes. “Many leaders now believe that having the discipline and clarity to prioritise health and wellbeing, and support from organisations in doing so, could have a profound effect on the way that we work and the results that we are able to achieve.”

As a leadership consulting firm Gerard Daniels speaks broadly with business leaders about issues just like these. To share your thoughts and insight or for advice on promoting leadership health and wellness within your organisation, talk to Gerard Daniels today.

1. BUPA’s Executive Wellbeing Index, published in September 2020, captures opinions from almost 2,000 high-net-worth individuals (HNWIs) and senior executives based across Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia.

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