Why Mental And Physical Health Are The Foundation Of Effective Leadership


Deadlines, long hours, and the constant pressure to perform can cause leaders to neglect their well-being. Missing a workout here and there isn’t a big deal, but when leaders start ignoring nutrition, skipping out on exercise, and opting for another cup of coffee instead of a good night’s sleep, they can start to spiral.

Health, both physical and mental, is not just a personal asset but a professional one as well. It is arguably a leader’s greatest advantage in achieving success and fostering a positive work culture. As the saying goes, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” And when you’re running on empty, your team suffers. Managers impact people’s mental health more than their doctor (51%) or therapist (41%) and as much as spouses (69%), according to research from UKG. If you’ve let your health take a backseat as you run your team or business, it’s time to reprioritize it so you can be a more effective leader.

Physical Health As The Foundation Of Effective Leadership

A lot of health problems can be prevented or treated if they are caught in time. Yet, many people avoid the doctor’s office despite persisting health issues.

“The reluctance to take time out of our busy days to see a doctor, compounded by current healthcare accessibility challenges, can lead to neglected conditions that worsen over time,” explains Michael Forbes, pharmacist, and founder of Ageless Living™, a health and wellness center providing preventative care. The center advocates for a proactive stance on health, emphasizing the long-term benefits of maintaining physical activity and a balanced diet amidst the declining health trends observed in recent years.

“Leaders who maintain a healthy lifestyle tend to have more energy, be less prone to illness, and demonstrate greater endurance. These factors are essential for the long hours and demands of leadership roles,” adds Forbes.

Physical health plays a crucial role in a leader’s effectiveness. Living a healthy lifestyle can lead to better decision-making. Consistent exercise and good nutrition can improve cognitive functions, including problem-solving, memory, and concentration, according to researchers. Thus, by prioritizing their physical health, leaders can enhance their performance and set a positive example for their teams.

In the competitive landscape of business, every edge counts, and health is a significant one. A healthy leader is more likely to be innovative and creative. Physical activity and mental well-being practices like meditation have been linked to enhanced creativity and openness to new ideas.

“Time invested in regular exercise, even if it means spending less time at work, is correlated with higher ratings of leadership effectiveness,” explains exercise physiologist Sharon McDowell-Larsen. Being a more effective leader can translate into greater creativity and innovation within the organization, giving it a competitive edge.

The Ripple Effect Of A Healthy Leader

The impact of a leader’s health extends beyond their personal well-being; it has a ripple effect on their organization. When they prioritize their health, it clearly conveys that health is valued within the organization. This can lead to healthier work-life balance practices among employees, reducing burnout and improving overall job satisfaction and productivity.

When employees have a more enjoyable work experience, their personal lives are enriched. “The socially-transmitted impact of your mindset extends well beyond those people with whom you interact directly in the workplace. It also touches those to whom they are connected — most notably their partners and family members, but also their larger networks and communities,” says Monique Valcour. As a leader, you are impacting your larger community, not just the people you interact with directly on a daily basis.

Moreover, healthy leaders are more capable of sustaining high levels of performance over time. Having endurance is crucial in today’s business world, where adaptability and resilience are vital to navigating challenges and uncertainties.

“Leaders who are physically and mentally fit are better equipped to handle stress, make clear-headed decisions under pressure, and maintain their focus on long-term goals,” adds Forbes.

Leaders can enhance their decision-making, creativity, and resilience by prioritizing their health. Moreover, they set a powerful example for their teams, fostering a culture that values and promotes health. Even in today’s demanding and fast-paced work culture, there is a positive shift occurring towards self-care, which can go a long way in both personal health benefits and contributing to career success.


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