The role of leadership in employee and leader well-being

Leader showing well-being


The interplay between leadership and workplace wellness is crucial in today’s dynamic business environment. As leaders aim to foster productive, healthy, and resilient teams, understanding the impact of leadership practices on both employee and leader well-being becomes essential. This expanded blog post delves deeper into how leaders can enhance team strength through strategic health-focused initiatives, backed by comprehensive research across several academic studies.

Table of Contents

How do transformational leadership styles impact employee well-being over time?

Transformational leadership significantly enhances employee well-being by influencing several key areas of the work environment and employee relations:

Creating a positive psychological climate
Transformational leaders contribute to the creation of a positive psychological climate by promoting an environment that emphasizes mutual respect and empowerment. Employees perceive their workplace as supportive and inclusive, which enhances their psychological well-being (Gurt, Schwennen, & Elke, 2011).

Integrating engagement and health promotion
Transformational leaders actively engage in the development of their followers by offering support and recognition, enhancing job satisfaction and reducing job strain. This leadership approach leads to improved mental health outcomes by decreasing stress and fostering feelings of accomplishment and value (Skakon et al., 2010). Additionally, by explicitly considering the health of their employees, these leaders influence both the mental and physical well-being of their followers. This involves initiating and supporting health-promotion activities that are crucial in reducing employee strain and enhancing overall well-being (Franke, Felfe, & Pundt, 2014).

Reducing role stress and ambiguity
Transformational leaders are effective in reducing role stress and ambiguity among employees by clearly communicating expectations and providing consistent feedback. This clarity helps employees understand their roles better and align their personal goals with organizational objectives, thereby enhancing their job satisfaction and reducing occupational stress (Arnold, Connelly, Walsh, & Martin Ginis, 2017).

Enhancing perceived job characteristics
By fostering environments that enhance followers’ perceptions of their job characteristics, such as autonomy, feedback, and task significance, transformational leaders significantly improve the psychological well-being of their employees over time. This improvement is mediated by the increased motivation and commitment to the organization (Nielsen, Randall, Yarker, & Brenner, 2008).

What role does leadership play in reducing workplace stress and improving job satisfaction?

Effective leadership significantly influences workplace stress levels and employee satisfaction by implementing strategies that focus on support, communication, and recognition. Here’s how these leadership behaviors from several studies specifically contribute to these outcomes:

Improving communication and clarity
Leadership styles that prioritize clear, consistent communication help in reducing uncertainties among employees about their roles and responsibilities. This clarity in communication reduces role ambiguity, which is a significant source of stress in the workplace. When employees understand what is expected of them, their job satisfaction levels rise due to reduced conflict and clearer performance criteria (Arnold, Connelly, Walsh, & Martin Ginis, 2017).

Recognizing and rewarding efforts
Leaders who regularly recognize and reward efforts create a more positive job environment. Acknowledgment of employees’ hard work boosts morale and job satisfaction. This recognition also serves as a motivator for the team, encouraging them to maintain or improve their performance, which further reduces stress by making success criteria transparent and attainable (Skakon et al., 2010).

Promoting employee autonomy and involvement
Transformational leaders often empower their employees by involving them in decision-making processes, which enhances job satisfaction. This involvement gives employees a sense of ownership over their work and aligns their personal goals with organizational goals, thereby reducing job-related stress (Nielsen, Randall, Yarker, & Brenner, 2008).

Cultivating a supportive environment
By fostering a supportive workplace environment, leaders can directly impact the stress levels and satisfaction of their teams. Supportive leadership involves not only providing help and resources when needed but also offering emotional support through challenges. This approach helps in mitigating stress responses and elevating job satisfaction by ensuring that employees feel valued and supported (Montano, Reeske, Franke, & Hüffmeier, 2017).

Focusing on health and well-being
Leaders who emphasize the health and well-being of their employees contribute significantly to reducing workplace stress. This can be achieved by integrating health-promoting leadership behaviors, such as encouraging regular breaks, promoting work-life balance, and supporting wellness initiatives, which in turn improve job satisfaction and reduce burnout (Franke, Felfe, & Pundt, 2014).

How does leadership influence the physical health of employees?

Leadership plays a pivotal role in influencing not only the psychological but also the physical health of employees through several key practices:

Promoting health awareness and programs
Leaders who emphasize the importance of health within the organization often advocate for and support health-promotion programs. These can include initiatives such as fitness challenges, health screenings, and wellness education sessions. By making health a strategic priority, leaders can directly influence the physical health behaviors of their employees, leading to improved physical health outcomes (Nielsen & Munir, 2009).

Creating a culture of health
Transformational leaders foster a culture where health is valued and promoted. This involves integrating health into the organizational values and practices, such as providing healthy food options in the cafeteria, encouraging regular physical activity breaks during the workday, and offering flexible work hours to facilitate work-life balance. These cultural shifts can significantly reduce physical health risks and enhance overall employee well-being (Skakon et al., 2010).

Reducing physical strain through eergonomic practices
Leaders can influence the physical health of their employees by advocating for ergonomic adjustments in the workplace. This includes providing equipment that reduces physical strain, designing workspaces that promote good posture, and ensuring that the physical environment supports healthy working conditions. These improvements can decrease the incidence of musculoskeletal problems and other physical complaints (Arnold, Connelly, Walsh, & Martin Ginis, 2017).

Supporting mental health to influence physical health
Effective leaders understand the interconnection between mental and physical health. By addressing mental health issues through support programs and resources, leaders can indirectly influence physical health. Stress management workshops, access to mental health professionals, and policies that reduce workplace stress can lead to better physical health by reducing the physical manifestations of stress, such as hypertension and fatigue (Franke, Felfe, & Pundt, 2014).

Modeling healthy behaviors
Leaders who personally engage in healthy behaviors set a powerful example for their teams. When leaders actively participate in health-promoting activities, share their health goals, and speak openly about the importance of health, they can inspire their employees to adopt healthier lifestyles. This modeling can lead to improved physical health across the organization (Montano, Reeske, Franke, & Hüffmeier, 2017).

Can leadership development improve occupational health outcomes?

Investing in leadership development programs specifically designed to enhance health-promotion competencies can substantially improve occupational health outcomes. Here’s how these programs can make a significant difference:

Equipping leaders with health management tools
Leadership development programs that incorporate training on health management equip leaders with essential skills to identify, manage, and mitigate workplace stressors. These skills include effective communication strategies, stress management techniques, and the ability to implement ergonomic changes that prevent physical ailments. By reducing stress and physical strain, these programs directly contribute to improving the overall health profile of employees (Kelloway & Barling, 2010).

Promoting health-specific leadership practices
These development programs often emphasize health-specific leadership practices, such as recognizing the signs of employee burnout, promoting mental health awareness, and advocating for a balance between work demands and health. Leaders trained in these areas are better prepared to support their teams in maintaining physical and psychological health, thus fostering a healthier workplace environment (Franke, Felfe, & Pundt, 2014).

Fostering a proactive approach to health
Leadership development programs teach leaders to take a proactive approach to health, encouraging them to implement preventative health measures and wellness programs before significant health issues arise. This forward-thinking approach can significantly reduce health-related absences and medical claims, thus enhancing productivity and reducing costs associated with poor health (Nielsen & Munir, 2009).

Enhancing leader efficacy in health promotion
Such programs boost leaders’ confidence and efficacy in their role as health promoters. Leaders who feel competent in their ability to influence health outcomes are more likely to engage in positive health behaviors themselves and actively promote these behaviors among their teams. This enhanced efficacy can lead to a more committed implementation of health-promoting policies and practices (Arnold, Connelly, Walsh, & Martin Ginis, 2017).

Creating health advocates in leadership roles
By transforming leaders into health advocates, development programs help embed health promotion deeply within the organizational culture. Leaders who prioritize health can drive long-term changes that permeate the entire organization, leading to sustained improvements in occupational health outcomes (Gurt, Schwennen, & Elke, 2011).

What are the organizational benefits of health-focused leadership practices?

Health-focused leadership practices yield significant advantages for organizations by enhancing overall operational effectiveness and creating a supportive work environment. Here are the key organizational benefits:

Reduced absenteeism and health care costs
Leaders who prioritize health and well-being in the workplace can significantly reduce absenteeism. Health-focused initiatives such as wellness programs and stress management workshops decrease the prevalence of work-related illnesses and injuries, leading to lower health care costs and fewer lost workdays. This proactive approach to health can save the organization considerable resources in the long run (Montano, Reeske, Franke, & Hüffmeier, 2017).

Increased productivity and employee engagement
By fostering an environment that values employee health, leaders enhance workforce morale and engagement. Employees in good physical and mental health are more productive and more deeply engaged in their work, contributing positively to the organization’s output. Moreover, the increased energy and reduced fatigue generally associated with better health can lead to higher quality work and greater employee innovation (Nielsen & Munir, 2009).

Enhanced recruitment and retention
Organizations known for their health-focused leadership practices attract and retain top talent more effectively. A reputation for caring about employee well-being enhances an organization’s brand, making it more appealing to potential hires. Furthermore, existing employees are more likely to stay with an employer that invests in their health and well-being, reducing turnover and the associated costs of hiring and training new staff (Gurt, Schwennen, & Elke, 2011).

How can leaders be role models for healthy behaviors?

Leaders can profoundly influence the health behaviors of their employees by actively modeling and promoting health within the organization. Here are three key ways leaders can effectively serve as role models:

Demonstrating healthy behaviors personally
Leaders who actively participate in health and wellness activities set a powerful example for their teams. This could include joining company fitness challenges, participating in mindfulness sessions, or simply adhering to a balanced work-life schedule. When leaders prioritize their own health, they send a clear message that health is a priority within the organization. This personal involvement can motivate employees to adopt similar behaviors, contributing to a healthier workplace culture (Bakker & Demerouti, 2017).

Advocating for comprehensive health programs
Leaders can champion the development and implementation of workplace health programs that offer a range of activities catering to different aspects of health, including physical, mental, and emotional well-being. By advocating for these initiatives, leaders help to integrate health into the organizational culture, making it a core value rather than an afterthought. This advocacy also includes supporting policies that provide employees with the necessary resources and time to engage in these health-promoting activities (Nielsen & Munir, 2009).

Integrating health into organizational policies and practices
Effective role models in leadership positions integrate health-conscious decisions into the broader strategic policies of the organization. This might involve instituting policies that promote physical activity, such as stand-up meetings or breaks for stretching, or policies that address mental health, such as flexible working hours and remote work options. By embedding these practices into the organizational framework, leaders ensure that healthy behaviors are not just encouraged but institutionalized, making it easier for employees to engage in them routinely (Gurt, Schwennen, & Elke, 2011).

What are practical strategies for leaders to improve the health climate within their teams?

Leaders play a crucial role in shaping a health-supportive climate by actively promoting and supporting health and wellness initiatives. Here are several impactful strategies :

Regularly scheduling discussions on health and well-being
Leaders can foster an open dialogue about health and well-being by incorporating regular discussions into team meetings or as part of company-wide communications. This practice helps to normalize conversations about health, making it an integral part of the organizational culture. Such discussions also provide a platform for employees to share their health experiences and needs, which can inform more targeted health initiatives (Arnold, Connelly, Walsh, & Martin Ginis, 2017).

Offering training sessions focused on mental and physical health
By providing training sessions on both mental and physical health, leaders can equip employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to maintain and improve their health. These sessions could cover topics ranging from stress management and mindfulness to physical fitness and nutrition. Training not only educates employees but also demonstrates the organization’s commitment to their well-being (Skakon et al., 2010).

Implementing flexible work policies
Flexible work policies, such as telecommuting, flexible hours, and the provision for breaks for physical activity, support employees in managing their health more effectively. Such policies allow employees to work in ways that best fit their health needs and life circumstances, which can reduce stress and improve overall well-being (Nielsen & Munir, 2009).

Providing resources and support for mental health initiatives
Supporting mental health in the workplace can include providing access to counseling services, creating peer support groups, and implementing training programs that help managers identify and support mental health issues. Leaders who invest in mental health resources underscore the importance of mental well-being as part of the organization’s health priorities (Montano et al., 2017).

Modeling healthy behaviors
Leaders can significantly impact the health climate by personally engaging in and promoting healthy behaviors. When leaders actively participate in health and wellness activities and openly discuss their own health practices, they set a powerful example for their employees, encouraging them to adopt similar behaviors (Franke, Felfe, & Pundt, 2014).

Developing comprehensive wellness programs
Developing a structured wellness program that offers a variety of health-related activities and benefits, such as fitness memberships, wellness challenges, and health screenings, can significantly enhance the organizational health climate. These programs should be inclusive, catering to diverse health needs and preferences, to maximize participation and impact (Gurt, Schwennen, & Elke, 2011).

leader well-being and employees


The expanded insights from comprehensive research underscore the critical role of leadership in enhancing workplace wellness. By adopting health-specific leadership behaviors, leaders can significantly impact the well-being of their teams and, by extension, the overall productivity and success of their organizations. The journey towards a healthier workplace is a strategic one, where committed leadership is key to fostering a culture that values and enhances well-being.


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Bakker, A. B., & Demerouti, E. (2017). Job demands-resources theory: Taking stock and looking forward. Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 22(3), 273-285.
Franke, F., Felfe, J., & Pundt, A. (2014). The impact of health-oriented leadership on follower health: Development and test of a new instrument measuring health-promoting leadership. German Journal of Research in Human Resource Management, 28(1-2), 139-161.
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Nielsen, K., Randall, R., Yarker, J., & Brenner, S.-O. (2008). The effects of transformational leadership on followers’ perceived work characteristics and psychological well-being: A longitudinal study. Work & Stress, 26(1), 16-32.
Skakon, J., Nielsen, K., Borg, V., & Guzman, J. (2010). Are leaders’ well-being, behaviors, and style associated with the affective well-being of their employees? A systematic review of three decades of research. Work & Stress, 24(2), 107-139.

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