Health leadership….a new dimension to facilitate resilience and wellbeing

We know that leadership is linked to positive and negative outcomes for employees, and whilst we are often focused on developing leadership in order to enhance followship, we may be forgetting how we are supporting leaders to look after themselves. A way of achieving this may through the dimension of health leadership, which amongst other things is known to have a positive association with psychological climate, and contributes towards a safety culture.

Health leadership, as a facet of leadership practice, aligns with and expands transformational leadership; so that the leader is both compassionate and proactive about their own and followers resilience and wellbeing.

The process has to begin with the leader, holding up the authenticity mirror isn’t easy, and a factor of leader authenticity relates to asking for help. Something many leaders are afraid to do. Encouraging leaders to ask for help, requires that we examine leadership identity from a cultural perspective. This is because leadership is socially constructed, and the resilience and wellbeing of leaders is affected by the organisational health determinants in the working environment. In a working environment loaded with stressors, leaders can become overwhelmed with demands put upon them, it is when they are in this peripheral place that having the ability to utilise a SoC will give leaders a resilient strategy to adapt and succeed. If we are to consider how leaders are to develop a SoC for themselves and others, we need to attend to how the leader learns in context. This is because their SoC is also shaped by the challenges they experience, and socio constructed learning becomes neurologically embedded, so ways of thinking, feeling and behaving are reinforced and exhibited over and over again. Antonovsky’s SoC requires the leader to challenge their routinised assumptions about capability and capacity to lead in stressful environments, and rewire their thinking to a mindset of proficiency. Gray’s (2017) resilience and wellbeing model augments this by inviting the leader to examine resilience at micro, meso and macro levels and to navigate a trajectory towards an individual, team, and organisation ‘best self’.  The potential for this is to have a shared resilient intelligence across the organisation, achieved through the leverage of leadership development and practice.

In order to develop a dimension of leadership that incorporates a resilient and well ‘best self’, paying attention to the propositional knowledge relating to a hierarchy of control of workplace hazards (stressors) can only be part of the leadership journey. It is not difficult for leaders to understand that primary interventions (reducing or removing workplace stressors) are not always possible. Tertiary interventions (such as counselling) whilst necessary have a lower organisational impact rate. Secondary interventions (that  focus on resilience and wellbeing training) for leaders have the highest organisational multiplier effect because, a) there are many leaders, and b) their leadership is known to have significant influence on the resilience and wellbeing of other employees.

Perhaps when we are considering our leadership development programmes in the future, we will have a weather eye on leader resilience and wellbeing, if we look after them, we are already looking after our followers.

Photo of a pair of glasses with trees in the background

You can download the reference for free here: Gray. D. (2017) ‘Developing Leadership Resilience through a Sense of Coherence’ in Contemporary Leadership Challenges by clicking here