At the same time as there are many ways to preserve psychological health and well-being there is a constant need to improve individual physical health – as society is becoming increasingly more complex due to i.e. shifting economies and political uncertainty, where one has to deal with a high level of pressure and discontinuity. Hence, it is important to stay physically fit in order to handle all the curveballs, regardless of time and place, which means that one should make sure to engage in regular physical activity. And it is proven that aerobic exercise is highly effective and improves both cognitive strength and stamina, which influences work performance. Only stamina by itself helps to excel on the job and work smarter in order to become more productive. But it is not about turning your life upside down, it is about making small changes to improve and not strive for perfection. One should be realistic, learn one’s limits and make sure to improve self-awareness. All these elements are key to develop and increase individual stamina.
On the same note several researchers have collectively conducted an interesting study on the relationship between fitness and leadership called; “Fit to lead: is fitness the key to effective executive leadership?” (Neck, et al., 2000). They looked at the importance of physical activity amongst top management and how their health is influencing their respective organisations. The authors looked at health from different aspects, including factors such as “stamina, mental clarity, ability to cope with stress and a variety of other factors that can affect an executive's ability to lead” (Neck, et al., 2000). In order to support their study, the authors collected data amongst senior executives from a variety of organisations, which included famous profiles such as Al Gore and George W. Bush. Both these individuals were used as examples to emphasize the importance of health and its impact on performance - even in some of the toughest political and corporate environments, where taking care of physical and mental health as a senior executive is not only important for the individual, but for the stake- and shareholders of the organization as well. The reason for this is that senior executives might have a major influence on business and share price – which means that taking care of executive health is crucial and it´s about building strength, minimizing risks and fortifying revenue for the organization as a whole. And senior executives are getting ill, which is something organisations need to be aware of. When Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple, was diagnosed with cancer the organisational mishandling of his illness became the new standard on how to “not” handle this type of situation, concerning CEO health. A new best practice emerged, which created a precedence, and it has become the new norm to inform investors and shareholders about CEO´s health conditions. Not to gain sympathy, but to openly communicate factors that might influence investments. But even though CEO health is seen crucial to any company only 22% of companies sponsor their executives with physical check-ups. So, one might ask: is this enough? Nell Minow of the Corporate Library says;
"The board is responsible for understanding everything there is to know about any factor affecting the CEO's ability to handle or even stay in the job, and failure to do so is a violation of their duty as fiduciaries" (Boyle, 2004).
Looking at this, could insights to a CEO´s personal life be taken too far, and/or where should the line be drawn? According to Corporate Governance Alliance CEO Eleanor Bloxham and Value Alliance, disclosure about a CEO´s personal life should only be disclosed to its shareholders and employees if it could have material impact. But looking back, even though only 22% offer medical visits during employment, more and more companies are offering perks such as full or partially medical coverage throughout life, post career. This alone raises several questions, but questions for another article.
But there is no doubt that it will be increasingly important to sustain senior executive health as we move into the future, and key will be to determine strengths, weaknesses and limitations - correlating with positive psychology. It is all about working on preventive measures, not conducting quick fixes and patch work. And engaging in regular physical activity is not only important for the latter but it is positively linked to how senior executives are coming across as leaders. This means that being at good health as a senior executive does not only have individual benefits, it also helps to improve image and how senior executives are being perceived by their peers and organisations. So, I believe we can all agree that healthy employees are recognized to be happy employees and that stress at work has an impact on health, and that negative stress decreases overall well-being. It is therefore utterly important for organisations to fully understand the stressors in play and work on sustaining health and building awareness.
by Ole Petter Anfinsen, Founder and Chief Executive
References and sources
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[Accessed 24 July 2017].