Monthly Archives: May 2009

Authentic Leadership and Health

Last month’s topic was ‘zest at work’. This month I continue with this theme of vitality and thriving, and have summarised an article from the April 2009 issue of the Journal of Organizational Behavior: “Authentic leadership as a pathway to positive health” (Note 1)

“Authentic leaders provide a supportive and positive environment where positive mood is nurtured. The authentic leader influences followers through unconditional trust on the part of the follower, positive emotions, and a commitment to foster self-determination and growth in their followers. These transformational behaviors can also be conceptualized as a health promoting strategy in followers as well.”

Positive Health

The authors suggest that: “a positive health model helps explain highly effective leadership”. The four elements of the model connect emotion, body and mind:

  1. Leading a life of purpose
  2. Quality connections to others / positive relationships
  3. Positive self-regard and mastery
  4. Perception of negative events as paths to meaning and purpose

“Positively healthy individuals are the high achievers and most satisfied….health promotion as a role for leaders is not a secondary interest, but a component of the success of the leadership process.”

Positive Leadership

The authors explain the parallels between “highly effective, authentic leadership” and positive health. Healthy executives were found to have the capacity to form healthy relationships and supportive working relationships, causing a ripple effect on those around them. Further, being able to motivate and inspire others, to understand individuals’ needs, and to provide interesting challenging work, promotes health in employees.

“The ability to perform at an exceptional level as a leader and to facilitate this level of functioning in followers requires a comprehensive approach that at minimum includes and optimally emphasizes the positive.”

Leaders who function on positive emotion are “contagious in relationship with their followers….this contagion effect can lift an entire workgroup and work setting in terms of performance as well as health”. When leaders transfer positive emotions such as hope, resilience and optimism to followers, this leads to improved performance and enhances follower health, positive self-regard and mastery.  Followers are also better able to find meaning and purpose in negative events, and display resilience.

“Authentic leaders are leading followers toward a higher purpose and helping to promote their health.”

My observation: this article supports the valuable role of Positive Psychology and related fields. The evidence-based theories and practices from these fields help leaders to positively impact the kind of health promotion described above, thus improving employee and team productivity and performance.

Note 1: Macik-Frey, M., Quick, J.C., Cooper, C.L. (2009), Authentic leadership as a pathway to positive health, Vol 30; Issue 3, pp 453-458
All quotes above are drawn from this article.