Health-Oriented Leadership: Characteristics and Benefits

June 7, 2017 Richard Justenhoven
image health oriented leadership

An Holistic Approach to Health by Leaders

The topic of health within organisations has gained a great deal of attention recently. Organisations benefit from healthy employees reducing absenteeism and fluctuation and increasing the employee performance. So how can health-oriented leadership help in this?

Clearly, being healthy is not just about the absence of illness. But adopting an holistic approach to health makes more sense, where the psychological wellbeing and satisfaction and social wellbeing is also recognised. Not only does the organisation as a whole influence health of the employees through policies and opportunities, but the leaders within it also have a role to play. So how can leaders act in order to improve their employees’ health?

Recent research into health-oriented leadership found that many studies have identified some key factors that support the good health of employees (Gregersen et al., 2011). Leadership can serve as a resource for employees to improve their health as well as a stressor. When managers and leaders provide social support to their employees, it has a positive impact on their health and employees find it easier to deal with stress, when they are supported by their superiors. However, if the leader behaves in a manner of impatience, shows poor conflict management and actively provokes conflicts and disagreements with employees, then those team members will show a higher level of stress.

A couple of studies also proved the positive effect of a transformational leadership style. Not only does transformational leadership reduce stress and its symptoms such as burnout, but it also has a positive influence on how employees perceive their workplace. They make greater sense of their workplace and are more committed to it, which also improves their wellbeing. Transformational leadership is defined by the following characteristics (Bass & Riggio, 2006):

  • Charisma
  • Inspiration
  • Intellectual Stimulation
  • Individualised Consideration

Although leaders have a great impact on their employees’s health, the effects are also influenced by the working environment and the nature of their position. Gregersen and his colleagues (2011) also pointed out that there seems to be a ‘feedback loop’. Healthy employees perceived the leadership skills of their superior as more positive and vice versa.

You may like to keep an eye on how you lead your employees so everyone stays healthy and happy and look at how health-oriented leadership can be adopted.


Bass, B. M., & Riggio, R. E. (2006). Transformational leadership. Psychology Press.

Gregersen, S., Kuhnert, S., Zimber, A., & Nienhaus, A. (2011). Fuhrungsverhalten und Gesundheit-Zum Stand der Forschung. Das Gesundheitswesen73(01), 3-12.

About the Author

Richard Justenhoven

Richard Justenhoven is the product development director within Aon's Assessment Solutions. A leading organizational psychologist, Richard is an acknowledged expert in the design, implementation and evaluation of online assessments and a sought after speaker about such topics.

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