Key topics

Healthy leadership

“Managers play a decisive role in health management. They are responsible for the design of the immediate working environment as well as promoting and supporting employees and serving as role models.”

Immanuel Hermreck | Chief Human Resource Officer, Bertelsmann

“Healthy Leadership behavior and an appropriate working environment are key to ensuring that managers can achieve good long-term results in their area of responsibility.”

Martin Kewitsch | Executive Vice President HR Coordination & Shared Services

“Companies need to encourage their executives to look after their health. It’s only when leaders take good care of themselves can they manage their employees in a healthy way.”

Günter Göbel | Chair of Group Works Council Bertelsmann

Healthy leadership is worth it!

Healthy leadership benefits not only you, but your area of responsibility as well! Scientific studies show that leaders have a direct influence on the performance and health of their employees.

Leadership behavior characterized by support and participation opportunities goes hand in hand with better health and less stress for employees (Gregersen et al. 2013).

An internal study at Bertelsmann also concludes this: Employees are less likely to fall ill, if managers convey the overall corporate strategy to them and treat their work with respect and trust. In addition, employees who have a good relationship with their managers are despite high workloads more likely to get more involved than required and identify more strongly with the company. This in turn has a demonstrably positive effect on company results (Netta, 2011).

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The special role of leadership

Everybody knows: unexpected additional tasks, pressing deadlines, one appointment after the other. The burden is high - for you and for your employees.

But one thing is clear: you can only achieve your goals if you and your team meet the challenges of everyday life in a healthy and strong way. And this is where you come in as a leader! "Managers create the direct working environment, promote and support their employees and can serve as role models," says CHRO Immanuel Hermreck.

We define three points that can be used to leverage healthy leadership:


1.     Healthy leadership in everyday working life

Daily leadership is more important to health than “an apple a day”


2.     Designing healthy framework conditions

Create an environment that strengthens health more than it strains


3.     Awareness of one’s own health and its exemplary effect

Health is contagious too! Take good care of your own health and act as a healthy role model!

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Healthy leadership in everyday working life

Your daily leadership influences how well your employees are able to cope with the stress of their work. One thing should be made clear: aligning your leadership behavior with health goals doesn’t mean additional effort.

Instead, the dimension of health can be incorporated easily into day-to-day management. We define five steps to healthy leadership behavior:

1.     Sincere appreciation

Appreciative leadership is characterized by recognition, trust, support and participation opportunities. Those who feel valued in the workplace and experience being an important part of a larger picture can also deal better with stress.

2.     Identify sources of stress

Increase your awareness of stress signals to prevent illness and absenteeism at an early stage.

3.     Strengthen resources

Together with your employees analyze how stress factors can be reduced and resources increased through e.g. recreation, coaching or mutual support.

4.     Discuss health

Don’t avoid the topic of health. Include it regularly as a part of general conversations. Should specific issues arise, seek dialog in an understanding and appreciative way.

5.     Recognize the limits of responsibility

Recognize the limits of your responsibility. Although private difficulties can affect work behavior, you are only responsible for professional matters. Use your local support experts to assist you with discussions or to recommend staff to a contact person.

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Designing healthy framework conditions

Create a healthy workplace environment focusing on both the interaction of managers with staff as well as framework conditions.

This includes not only ergonomic workstation but the following aspects as well:

  1. Working atmosphere 
  2. Activities and tasks
  3. Work environment
  4. Processes and structures

Together with direct supervision, these points form the framework in which employees can operate –  all shaped by your leadership! Even if certain conditions, such as space or activity type are fixed, other workplace aspects can be demonstrably improved through health-conscious leadership. Small adjustments often make a considerable difference to the perception of strain on employees. Studies show that employees who evaluate their work as meaningful, have maneuvering room and are able to complete their tasks, are - despite stress and pressure to perform - demonstrably more content with their work and better able to cope with pressure and demands. (Antonovsky 1997; Ostermann 2010).

For more information on designing healthy framework conditions, click here.

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Caring for one’s own health and serving as a role model

Good health is infectious! Take good care of yourself and be a healthy role model! Delivering first-class work and finding a good balance at the same time often proves to be a tight wire act.

But both you and your employees benefit from health-conscious self-management: By setting an example of healthy behavior and openly talking about stress, your staff can do the same. 

It is important that you are aware of your role model function. You don’t have to be an athlete or nutritionist, but if you have a quick snack at your desk at lunchtime rather than taking a real break, you will certainly find imitators among your employees. If you are interested, there are a number of contact persons locally available to you and your team to find support!

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Further information

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