Adopting a Leadership & Executive Wellness Mindset

Jan 30, 2023

Increasing employee engagement while managing workplace stress and burnout

Khalid Asad, MS, PCC, Executive Coach

A growing body of research supports the connection between leadership behaviors and employee engagement, stress, burnout, and turnover. How you lead impacts employees' wellness and performance.  Changes in how we work and our attitudes about work resulting from the pandemic have highlighted the need for organizations to address workplace wellness. Leaders and their teams have felt the effects of integrating their work and home lives, which blurred boundaries that once provided some semblance of balance between the two.

Disengagement, stress, and burnout appear to be at an all-time high. Generationally, 84% of Gen Zs report burnout along with 74% of Millennials and 47% of Baby Boomers (Forbes, 2022). And based on McKinsey research, 25% of Gen Zs, 13% of Millennials, 13% of Gen Xs, and 8% of Baby Boomers reported feeling emotionally distressed with low levels of well-being.  Reports such as these have prompted the U.S. Surgeon General to make workplace wellness a top priority for organizations in the post-pandemic world.

Leaders are faced with the dilemma of being responsible for their wellness and the wellness of their teams.  In our conversations with leaders, many noted concerns for their wellness while trying to lead during these times of uncertainty, social and political changes, and a workforce that is more vocal about their needs.

What is Leadership & Executive Wellness?

We define a Leadership & Executive Wellness mindset as actively and intentionally adopting a self-care mindset and behaviors that promote psychological, emotional, and physical well-being for yourself, your workplace, and others.  Adopting a Leadership & Executive Wellness mindset can increase employee engagement, while decreasing stress and burnout within your team.

What Does a Leadership & Executive Wellness Mindset Look Like?

While there are various ways to demonstrate a Leadership & Executive Wellness mindset, we believe leaders who incorporate these four ways of thinking and behaving experience increased workplace wellness and will notice positive changes in their teams' culture.

Value Yourself and Others

One of the ways in which leaders can demonstrate a Leadership & Executive Wellness mindset is by taking time to appreciate themselves as human beings, their strengths, and what they bring to their role. Just as it is important to value self, it's equally important to value those you lead and appreciate their uniqueness as individuals, skills, and what they offer. Doing so will have a positive impact on employee engagement. 

Practice and Promote Inclusion

Holding the belief that everyone has something to contribute and being intentional about seeking their input and listening to their ideas bodes well for creating an inclusive work culture. As leaders, we must move beyond our comfort zone of getting input and contributions from our "go-to people." Doing so will dramatically increase our sources of information and ideas while creating opportunities for others to participate in the team's direction and decision-making.

Communicate Clarity

The leaders we spoke to echoed the same sentiments we frequently hear from others; the pace of change has drastically increased, thus increasing the amount of work for themselves and their teams. In fact, according to surveys, pandemic trends related to workload and hours worked have increased.  Leaders can support themselves and their teams by being clear about priorities. When speaking with leaders, they often share a list of initiatives or projects but find it difficult to communicate "what's most important" or high-level goals supported by those projects or initiatives—gaining clarity related to priorities and sharing them help employees determine how to organize their work and where they should focus their time and energy.

Demonstrate Empathy

Leadership research shows strong support for empathy as an essential leadership quality. Empathy is also a crucial part of emotional intelligence that several researchers believe is critical to being an effective leader (Bar-On & Parker, 2000; George, 2000; Goleman, 1995; Salovey & Mayer, 1990). Empathy is a critical ingredient for building a culture that values wellness and is a quality that is important for developing a Leadership & Executive Wellness mindset.

When leaders suggest the need to get tasks done with little regard for what it takes (physically, emotionally, and mentally) for the employee, it says to the employee that you have little or no understanding of their work or what they are experiencing. On the other hand, an empathetic leader is connected with their employees, has some awareness of what they may be experiencing, and responds accordingly.

Discuss the Importance of Mental Health

Unfortunately, many people struggle with mental health conditions but feel ashamed and may not seek help. Create a team culture that values and promotes mental health services. Invite clinicians periodically to your meetings to discuss mental health and the importance of seeking help. Doing so may encourage employees to get the help they need.

Promote and Model Healthy Physical Habits

Leadership is about influence. We influence not only through our words but also our behaviors. Create and engage your wellness plan that includes healthy work and eating habits. Take periodic breaks during the day to step away from work and encourage your team to do the same. Your plan should also include appropriate physical, emotional, and mental activities that support your wellness. Share the idea of a wellness plan with your team and encourage them to create their own. Work with your team to create a team wellness plan. A team plan should be created after identifying those issues that impact your team’s wellness. Issues like workload, finding value and meaning in work,  and priorities are topics or areas that could be discussed.  

A Leadership & Executive Wellness mindset will benefit not only you but your team and organization. It is a supportive way of thinking and behavior that lets your team know you care not only about them as employees but also as people.  Adopting this way of thinking should not be viewed as an investment of time but instead an investment of the heart and mind.


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