Where is health in the Executive Coaching & Leadership discourse then?

“Any leadership and coaching programme that is not standing first on this ground is out of date in the context of the frontiers of behavioural science.”

I was scanning through the topics of an executive coaching conference soon to take place in New York. I was struck by the absence of individual employee health levels and projections within all the conference sessions and topics.

This is something I have noticed before and I am ever more surprised at the continued absence of the increasing impact of behavior-related healthcare challenges and organisational engagement and innovation.

Given that almost no one would argue that human effectiveness across a wide level of performance metrics is unaffected by the heath of the individual, why does it appear that organisational leadership approaches, development programmes and executive coaching seem to be failing to see the obvious?
Human health is the foundational ground on which organisational output and effectiveness stands. It is not an optional add-on. If you ran an army would you ignore the basic facts that its nutrition, stamina, overall health and fitness is vital to success? I am guessing you would see the logic. Why then, when it comes to performing seemingly non -physical tasks and roles, i.e. using the mind, do we not have the same clear thinking? The fit brain is more likely to achieve innovative, engaged, flexible, creative functions. Positive emotional experience is supported by good health and that is important for effective functioning.

We have wellness programmes. Good. The business case is clear. But we still do not see health as the principal, non-negotiable, ongoing ground of organisational leadership. Any leadership and coaching programme that is not standing first on this ground is out of date in the context of the frontiers of behavioural science.

In most developing countries where labour is cheap, easily replaceable and businesses are focused on production models requiring little brain use, it is easy to see why this focus on health is unnecessary; a hard fact of exploitation economics. But, as we also have a vast new knowledge-based world economy creating wealth from the labour of the brain, so we can see that keeping the mind healthy so that it can function optimally when asked to adapt, engage, create and innovate is not just a nice idea. It is crucial.

The bottom line: A healthy workforce is a more profitable workforce. If you are a leader, then standing on this ground is business best practice. Unless of course your business is running sweatshops or similar types of businesses. But, in that case, I doubt that leader would be the right word.

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