Health and Leadership: how our wellbeing influences our leadership styles

Fall 2020, Leadership the ”Flying Carpet”:
Health, Time, Space and Vision

Special Issue December  2020
Basic Leadership Skills course – The Apple and The Candle

  • 1 leadership journey:  semester Fall 2020
  • 4 communities: Health – Time – Space – Vision
  • 1 title: Fall 2020, Leadership the ” Flying Carpet”: Health, Time, Space and Vision
  • 4 articles:
    #Health and Leadership: how our wellbeing influences our leadership styles
    #Time and cultivating Leadership
    #Space in correlation with Leadership: How space shapes the work of leaders in times of Covid-19 and beyond
    #Vision and its connection to Leadership

Health and Leadership:
how our wellbeing influences our leadership styles

Student-Authors of the course Basic Leadership Skills – Fall 2020

Max Föhrigen (Germany), Luc Mackowiak (France), Daphné Moretton (France), Afra Pazhouhan Fekri (Iran), Juliana Rost (Germany), Elena Wind (Germany), Marcella Zoccoli  (JAMK University of Applied Sciences)

Student Editor-in-chief Fall 2020: Luc Mackowiak


“Leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about impact, influence, and inspiration. Impact involves getting results, influence is about spreading the passion you have for your work, and you have to inspire team-mates and customers.”

—Robin S. Sharma

Living in a time where the whole world is on stand-by and put under lockdown due to Covid-19, the importance of health is highlighted and omnipresent. Not only our personal life is restricted but also our working environment has changed dramatically. Therefore, it is even more important to find a balance between all the dimensions of health.

In the following article, we are going to give an overview of the different levels of health and how they are combined with leadership.

Figure 1. The 6 Dimensions of Health.

Figure 1. The 6 Dimensions of Health. DElJAMK community own illustration  – designed by Afra Pazhouhan Fekri

Emotional Health and Leadership

To be emotionally healthy means to be able to cope with feelings through challenges or changes and accept or manage them in the right way (Miller, 2020). The first thing to understand regarding Emotional Health is that it impacts the individual itself, but also the world around them. It is a continuous process and there is always the possibility of learning something and improving one’s state of mind. A person’s wellbeing is the key factor of making respectful and mindful decisions and to distinguish themselves from external negative influences (GlobalLeadershipFoundation, 2013).

One of the biggest problems today is that most people are not spending their time being really “present”. Our thoughts are constantly flooded by ideas, information, to-dos, or memories. But how do you want to be effective in life and at work if focusing on the important things is so difficult for each of us? The answer is simple, thinking with your “whole body” balances the three centers which are the head, the heart, and the body (GlobalLeadershipFoundation, 2013).

In general, a leader radiates a lot more confidence and is able to inspire his team members if he gets rid of blaming himself and being concerned about others’ judgment. An engaging culture in an organization can only be created if people, their perspectives, and ideas are valued (Inscape, 2020).

Social Health and Leadership

Social health at the individual level refers to “how a person behaves with others, how others respond to that behavior, and how the person responds to institutions and social rules and norms.”(Demarest, 2008). Social health depends on several determinants that can be Biological, Behavioral, Environmental, Social, or Health System related.

In leadership, social health will have a significant role, in fact, a person with stable social health determinants will be more comfortable in the leadership role, thus we notice a direct link between the well-being of the work environment and good leadership from the leaders of a company (Houlfort & Rinfret, 2010). Moreover, a person who is comfortable in society will be more at ease in the role of leader, it will then inspire a work climate based on trust and transparency and listening which will have a positive influence on the employees, this is called transformational leadership based on relationships between subordinates. (Houlfort & Rinfret, 2010). Epidemiological studies have shown a direct relationship between social health on the one hand and physical and/or mental health on the other, so mental stability is necessary and is found in good leaders. (Demarest, 2008).

Intellectual Health and Leadership

Intellectual intelligence is the ability to process information by obtaining, storing, and managing it (Andreana, 2020). It is advised that leaders examine their intellectual health. Intellectual health allows leaders to have good decision-making skills. A leader is encouraged to be curious. A curious leader explores the unknown and seeks new perspectives from other people to see what is there behind their thinking. This leader is open to new ideas and an important point is that they question their own biases and reflect on their mind.

Intellectual health is also about how a person is capable of directing their mind, controlling actions, and self-criticizing. In the capacity of a leader, it is beneficial if one questions themself when challenged. In addition, one can also reflect if they listen to the other person. It is an advantage if the leader creates a questioning mindset in the people who are following and raises a spirit of quest among them.

A leader must be open to adaptation. He/she should re-evaluate their actions continuously and they are open to change.  Intellectual health includes 20% of an individual’s success by the ability to think and solve problems (Cherniss 2006, Durgut 2013). The current world is constantly going through a fast-paced change and a leader must welcome the unexpected in order to survive. Adaptability is the key to this process. The mind of an adaptive leader is reshaping itself, which can lead to constructive change. In addition, a leader is encouraged to see the world colorful rather than just black and white. This way of thinking allows the leaders to have more viewpoints rather than only two options. It helps to make better decisions and have fewer blind points (Slade, 2013).

Vocational Health and Leadership

While people are working, everyone should gain personal satisfaction as well as enrichment, no matter what kind of work has to be done. This is vocational health. It is very important for all employees of a company and has not been a “nice to have” for a long time. For leaders, in particular, it is very important to be mentally and physically fit in order to be a good and competent role model for the employees. The resource employee is essential to the success of any company. If there is high absenteeism due to illnesses, this ultimately not only results in delays and additional work but ultimately also in lost sales. A company with its regular projects and processes runs particularly well when employees are efficient (Karriere Tutor, 2020).

The concept of work-life balance has long since become obsolete. Rather, it is about integrating the job meaningfully into one’s own life. And what use is the dream job if the house blessing is wrong? Vocational health and private health outside of work are therefore very closely related. Vocational health is achieved, among other things, by the fact that the job and the entire environment match the values ​​and goals of the leader. Your own values, which are particularly important to you, should be fulfilled to some extent in order to be happy at work. There are many opportunities: for example, leaving your office chair whenever you can is a good idea. The next point is today’s dependence on social media and the internet in general. If you work on the computer all day, you shouldn’t surf the web on your mobile phone during the lunch break, rather take a short walk, in order to be highly concentrated on your job. Relaxation occurs for the entire body and the head becomes free for new tasks (Recruiting Tag Blog, Kalliope Portal 2020).

High concentration and mental health should not be neglected, especially by leaders and managers with a lot of responsibility. Another point to be able to work in a really healthy professional way is the way to work. If you don’t live too far away from work, you can also run to it or take the bike. If the distance is too far, you should perhaps exercise a bit or do some sport after work.

Spiritual Health and Leadership

The word spirit comes from the old Latin word “spiritus” which can be “translated to “breath”, “courage” or even “soul” (Ghaderi et al, 2018)

Although there is no one correct way to define spirituality, there are some main characteristics that are of great importance when one wants to understand what is really behind the term. Many people misuse the term spirituality by always correlating it to religion or even using it as a synonym, which is not entirely true. While some people find spiritual health in praying to God, many others do not. (Wespath, n.d.) They can for example find their meaning and strength in meditation or doing yoga Spirituality is about connection, so the connection with the self, the connection with others, with the environment, and with God. Additionally, it is about the balance of life, the meaning and value of everyone and everything (Ghaderi et al, 2018)

In accordance to be a successful leader of others, one needs to be spiritually healthy. E. Ram (1988) noted that true leaders “hold the flame of faith in their hearts and are able to pass it on to others.” He continues by saying that “they are in direct touch with those they try to help, and they hold themselves accountable to the people.” It is not enough for a leader to experience the connection to himself or herself, but he/she needs to be connected to his/her employees and environment too. The leader needs to know that the growth and process of the employees as well as of himself or herself is essential and needed so that concluding he/she should help others to find their inner strength and balance. The result of this growth is that the employees will find their inner harmony and motivation while gaining the view that they do not work for one company or for one manager or supervisor but that they work for themselves to get their inner fulfillment. It is of great value that the employees see themselves as important members of the organizational community so that they feel appreciated and understood. The leader should enable this environment by creating a vision which the employee can share. It is important to create a workspace where the employees can “feel a sense of meaningfulness and connection with others” (Samul, 2019) in order to achieve their personal, best results.

Physical health and leadership

What role does physical health play at work?

Being healthy can make a significant difference at work. This study highlights the importance of having a healthy lifestyle, especially at work. It is primordial for businesses because healthier employees are more productive and less likely to get sick which costs money to the company (Institute for Health and Productivity Studies at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 2016).

What can companies do to improve it?

Therefore, creating a physical activity program, more commonly referred to as the “Worksite wellness program”, within the company is important and will benefit everyone. A way of doing this is by creating a “culture of health”, it means that employees trying to be healthier receive support at work from their managers. According to a study referred, these initiatives often show positive outcomes (Worksite Physical Activity, CDC, 2017). Another way could be through partnerships with for example local gyms which could help motivate employees or by encouraging workers to go to work differently since employees who walk, ride a bike or take public transportation are healthier than those who do not. It is also possible to rearrange the office space, for example, push people to use the stairs instead of the elevator or offer more ergonomic chairs or offices, for example, standing desks can improve the posture of the employees. Even just taking a few minutes off for a break can make a significant difference.

This shows the importance of leadership not in a giving task way but human and caring way, it shows that leaders have the power to help people live a better life (Worksite Physical Activity, CDC, 2017).


In conclusion, we can say that, especially in the ongoing situation, health has gained even more important than ever before. Isolation and social distancing became a great threat to all levels of health. Nevertheless, it is now even more important to stay healthy. While we took a closer look at six different dimensions of health; emotional, social, intellectual, vocational, spiritual, and physical health.

We saw that emotional health helps to bounce back to the track of life when there are setbacks, while social health refers to the behavior of one with other people and its surroundings. Spiritual health is about the connection and meaningfulness to the self, others, and the environment. Consequently, having no personal contact with others is harmful, in particular regarding the social, emotional, and spiritual health of the individual. Physical health is about staying fit and active, in order to be more awake, fit, and less likely to get sick. This also suffers greatly when home-office and lockdown is omnipresent. Vocational health is the meaningfulness and personal satisfaction of the individual correlating to the working environment with all values, tasks, and attributes needed to stay alive, even in times of change. In the end, intellectual health helps us to have a wider perspective about the world and question the events happening around us and stay open-minded. It is now more important than ever to be open to change because the world is experiencing a fast-paced change on a daily basis. The leader must be open to new ideas and ways to improve and to manage information. The leader should direct the minds of the followers to become more eager for searching and learning. Consequently, intellectually healthy leaders are now needed more than ever.

Regarding the business environment, Covid- 19 can have a quick, negative impact on matters such as team spirit, inner balance, and top performance. As Robin S. Sharma (1996) said in the beginning, leaders have to be passionate about their work with the aim to inspire their employees. The final goal is to overcome this challenging pandemic, as one unified community.


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