The following article was written by Jennifer DiMotta, founder and CEO of Uprisors Leadership Wellness, a leadership and coaching program for women that combines leadership, health and financial acumen into one program. Jennifer is also speaking at our Women in Retail Leadership Summit. The original version of this article appeared on LinkedIn.
Leadership development programs have been suffering in value for a long time. In fact, studies show that more than 80 percent of organizations desire an effective leadership program, 55 percent of CEOs are concerned about the lack of next-generation leadership, and 48 percent of CEOs would like help with leadership development from an outside expert. In addition, while CEOs have stated that diversity, equity and inclusion is a top priority, men are still 13 percent more likely to be chosen for a leadership development program, emerging leaders struggle to access leadership development or coaching, and more than 80 percent of millennials state that leadership development is antiquated in both format and content.
Individual Health and Wellness Influences Leadership Effectiveness — or Lack Thereof
If lack of access to effective leadership development is contributing to an erosion of leadership bench strength, let’s talk about another even more profound issue on leadership capacity — individual health.
Individual health is one of the most concerning topics of the 2000s, personal or professional, with rising obesity rates (up around 40 percent of the population), significant spikes in anxiety/depression/burnout, and a “walking backward” of work/life balance. It’s not hard to see how our brains are misfiring, our bodies are eroding, and our mental capacity is thinning out.
While very few studies have focused on correlating an individual’s health and their leadership effectiveness, a majority of people could easily draw the conclusion that leadership effectiveness is heavily dependent on being physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. Studies have shown that when someone is unhealthy (because of poor diet, no exercise or high stress), their ability to make good decisions and effectively communicate (not to mention motivate, inspire and think strategically) is weaker than someone who eats right, exercises regularly and manages their stress.
Leadership Development Can Lead the Way to a Healthy Overhaul of an Organization
With a redesign of leadership development at the height of CEOs’ minds, could a “healthy” overhaul take place as well? Leaders who are taught to care about their health not only creates more effective leaders for companies, but arguably can have a profound downstream impact on the rest of the organization. What would it look like to develop leaders who not only actively listen and communicate effectively, but also live a healthy lifestyle and understand how to manage mental stress and other stress-related health issues.
Poor health runs much higher for women. Therefore, it’s possible that an aim to diversify leadership also requires an emphasis on employees having access to effective health coaching and development. And as women look for leadership development, it will not only be crucial to combine leadership and health development (leadership wellness), but necessary for sustainable growth in the company’s efforts to diversify the content required to develop all emerging leaders.
Many studies have proven the effectiveness of women leaders, particularly in their ability to empathize and collaborate, which are important skill sets to expand the conversation and acceptance of healthy living. We know that opening up conversations helps us all solve challenges together, an imperative in today’s world of unengaged and burned out employees.
Focusing on Health and Leadership Together Can Diversify Leadership in an Organization
When leaders are women, underrepresented minorities, etc., we know that facilitates diversity growth in the rest of the levels of the organization. And when those leaders are bringing awareness and importance to health and wellness, this also pervades to all employees throughout the organization. Not to mention, when leaders are open and transparent about their health challenges and offer sound and responsible advice, this can ultimately bring a wave of transparency and acceptability to the organization at large.
We all know that when leaders do things like take a break from 5 p.m.-9 a.m. it signals to employees they can too. When leaders take a lunch break, employees feel OK to do so too. It’s a significant shift in thinking for leaders and employees. Start with encouraging this by infusing it into a leadership development program.
It’s Time to Infuse Health Coaching Into Your Leadership Development Program
Simply put, leadership must own and be accountable to mental, emotional and physical well-being for it to permeate effectively and sustainably throughout an organization. Like culture, health and wellness must start at the top and become a top priority in an organization as it has profound impacts to the company’s short- and long-term profitability.
And with ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) taking a strong hold in corporate conversation right now without the health and well-being of leaders driving depth in leadership bench strength, you’ll be hard-pressed to achieve anything close to the S standard in ESG.
One impactful opportunity to bring focus to health and wellness is to bring together leadership development and health coaching. It’s called Leadership Wellness. Never heard of it? It’s trickling in and like the emerging path of all new ideas, Leadership Wellness is going to become the only option for leadership to truly becoming a “profit center” in any organization — small, medium and large, private and public.
Make health and wellness a part of your leadership development plan today and watch the positive impact of this change permeate throughout the company’s people and profitability.