Healthy Leadership

Healthy leadership will increase company's opportunities for a more successful business

It is a fact that employees behave just like their leaders. It could be both bad and good habits and traits that leaders transfer to their employees. With a healthy leadership, companies will increase their opportunities for a more successful and profitable business. What is a healthy leadership? And are there any companies which are practicing such leadership principals?

Over the years we have changed our habits of living and this is one the major issues that affects our health. We are at present in a highly developed society where changes appears in all aspects, i.e. economics, political and market conditions create not only opportunities but also higher competition. As an individual, you have to keep the balance in both professional and private life. Most of the time there is no clear distinction in between. Our new lifestyle with more of everything, work, consumption and opportunities is becoming a threat to our health and wellbeing.

For being able to create balance and a good standard of living and at the same time doing our best professionally requires that organisations and employers take their responsibility when it comes to developing individuals and groups in knowledge about how to increase our life quality, productivity and wellbeing, both professionally and privately.

A more successful and profitable business is every company’s goal. Most of the companies have policies and certain budgets for competence development and different kinds of business orientated training. It is a normal decision for a company investing thousands of euros in training i.e. in marketing, if marketing manager requests it or paying for consultancy services within sales, marketing and business strategies, but the question is: why are investments in health and well being for all employees are not very interesting or sometimes not very accepted from the employers point of view? What is more important than a person’s health? Many companies leave the health issue to an individual level. “It is up to the individual to take care of her personal health and wellbeing,” claim some companies.

This kind of standpoint makes it much easier for organisations in a short-term, but in the long run it will affect the business negatively.

As a management consultant, my most common assignment is helping organisations in business development and efficiency in business process. The most basic data for decisionmaking is my clients’ financial report and most of the time my analyses are based on these important figures. In 2005 I was hired to help an international Swedish company within the IT-industry with over 3000 employees worldwide. This project comprised the Swedish division with 2000 employees and the purpose of the project was rationalization and reorganisation within the Swedish department.

During those six months I worked closely with the management team and I also had insight into the process with a daily communication with the working team at the production unity. I realized that most of these people are working under a huge pressure because of all deadlines. The standard of living for these people was not very healthy. About 10% smoked regularly. The staff cantina didn’t offer many healthy choices either. When I finished my project I got a new request from the company. The head of HR asked me if I could arrange a seminar in personal effectiveness and how to manage stressful situations. This was his judgement of a good investment in health and well being. I realized that it could be a good idea but in the long term they should really take care of their people. I couldn’t just suggest that they should invest in a nice gym in the building or memberships at a fitness chain. I realized that the only way to convince the top management to invest in health was to show them how much in money they could gain in such an investment.

As a business consultant I am very much aware of different aspects of the business and I know that companies have their priorities when it comes to investment and as long as I could verify my arguments by numbers and figures then I had a chance to implement my ideas I believed in a more structured and strategic effort in health issues and I suggested starting a health and well-being project for the production unity in Stockholm with 400 employees.

A health service company was hired for employee health control. We needed to survey the eating habits, physical condition and physical activity habits. We divided employees in 2 groups, the healthy group and risk group. The healthy group was represented by individuals with good health and a good standard of living and the risk group was represented by individuals in risk zone for heart and vessel diseases because of their bad lifestyle both based on the result of the survey and the health control.

I also analysed the numbers of absence due to sickness and it showed that the risk group had almost 10 more days of sick leave per person in a year compared to a person within The healthy group. During the sick leave a Swedish employer pays almost 80% of the ordinary salary up to three months and 10 more days would almost cost the company about 200 euros per person in a year. Absence of a person at the production unity would also cause disturbance within production and the process. Additional costs like overtime and vacancy pay could be estimated to cost another 200 euros per person in a year.

My conclusion was that by keeping the healthy group healthy and avoiding ending up in the risk group company would save at least up to 400 euros per person in a year. It is also known that a healthy individual is about 5% more efficient than an individual in high risk health zone. Until the day I presented the report to the management team no one had even thought about the seriousness and importance of a long term investment in health and wellbeing. It was also a new chapter for me as a management consultant and my organisation and we realized that it is time to look further into health and well being aspects in our future assignments.

Today in relation to my assignments within organisational efficiency, communication and management training, I always request the number of absences due to sickness and the result of company’s health survey. I do believe that organisational problems like non-efficiency and conflicts are a result of health aspects.

Organisations may not be able to change people’s habit or lifestyle quickly and it is difficult when it comes to change other people’s attitude but we can not forget that an employer’s standpoint in health and well being is essential for motivation and inspiration of employees to implement better lifestyle. A healthy leadership is necessary for an optimal relation between productivity and good health. As a business consultant I see a lack of strategic thinking and planning within health industry. The business strategies are not as developed as industries like telecom or IT when it comes to corporate sales. There is not even one health company with proper strategic partnership with its corporate clients. This is very common in other industries.

There is however, one health care supplier; World Class International with World Class total care concept that is representing an essential effort of strategic thinking and partnership within the health industry. I would pronounce it as a role model concept which is a new way of thinking and a new way of developing the health business. I would also add that this is today’s preparation for creating a better platform for future collaborations between health suppliers and company clients. This journey will not be an easy one because as I mentioned before it is about changing attitudes and trying to influence clients into a new way of thinking and decision-making.

I wish that this development goes so far that in the near future the World Class total care concept will be integrated as a model for company clients’ strategic planning. I am looking forward to the day every corporation has a strategic health planning integrated into their yearly business plan. We should not forget that healthy business is today’s and our future’s most important issue and I encourage companies which offer health and well being services to a more provocative effort for a better business and a healthier society.

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