Giving women the skills to be willing and capable of taking their place as leaders means addressing and working on wellbeing. Homeward Bound is using the evidence-based set of tools in the Global Leadership Wellness Survey (GLWS) in the online component of the leadership program, helping participants gain a complete view of factors affecting energy, resilience, and wellbeing, and the resources to meaningfully improve them for themselves, their teams and their organisations.
Participants in the 5th and 6th cohorts learn to address the ‘silent’ derailers in today’s uncertain, ambiguous and complex times, and the work and personal relationships, activities, responsibilities, challenges, and pressures that affect performance, mental health and wellbeing.
After reviewing GLWS insights from the profiles of over 2000 leaders, GLWS tool developers have shared the top ten factors leaders report as contributing most positively to their wellbeing.
This list shows the highest-ranking questions from the GLWS and represents every one of the six domains of wellbeing. It shows that organisations must work with a broad, holistic, multi-dimensional definition of wellbeing in the initiatives they undertake to support their people. See the full GLWS Framework here
# 1: I feel there is a point to what I do at work
[Mean score = 4.35 (out of 5); GLWS Domain – Meaning, Purpose & Direction]
A massive 86% of leaders say they always or usually feel there ‘is a point’ to what they do at work, suggesting a strong understanding of the purpose of their roles and a sense of contribution to something useful and important. Great! We know this really matters for leaders to feel at their best and thrive in the workplace.
#2: I [rarely/never ]feel depressed at work
[Mean score = 4.24; GLWS Domain – Resilience & Equanimity]
A whopping 81% of our sample of leaders said they rarely or never feel depressed at work. However, 16% say they sometimes feel depressed, and 2% say they feel this way usually or always. This is broadly consistent with the oft-quoted statistic that 1 in 5 adults (in the general population) will experience a mental illness in any one year (Australian and US statistics). It shows the need for ongoing attention and action on mental health and recovery at work for these individuals.
#3: I am careful about my caffeine intake
[Mean score = 4.21; GLWS Domain – Vitality & Energy]
By ‘careful’ we guide people that this means ‘fewer than 4 caffeinated drinks per day and none after 6pm’. A fabulous 80% of our sample report they always or usually follow these guidelines, suggesting strong awareness of the negative impacts of too much caffeine. Just a bit of work to do for the 20% who are over-reliant on this stimulant to maintain energy levels at work.
Caffeine’s main effect on the body is to trigger the release of adrenaline, which gives us a ‘kick’ by increasing our heart rate, concentration and mental alertness. The more caffeine we consume, the more we build up a tolerance to its effects, making you want to drink more — it’s a drug and it’s addictive.
#4: I feel respected at work and that other people take me seriously
[Mean score = 4.13; GLWS Domain –Authentic Relationships]
We take great pleasure from seeing that the majority of leaders feel this way. As social researcher Hugh Mackay tells us, the desire to be taken seriously is a significant factor that drives human behaviour: “We all want our voices to be heard as authentic, legitimate and worthy of attention”.
Our self-image is strongly influenced by how we are treated by those around us and the extent to which we enjoy the respect of others. If you know or suspect someone is not being shown respect at work, consider how you might be able to make a positive difference.
#5: My personal/family life [rarely/never] has a negative impact on my work life
[Mean score = 4.13; GLWS Domain – Balance & Boundaries]
It seems there is generally minimal intrusion of personal lives into leaders’ work lives. Many of us have families and personal issues that place demands and challenges on our time and emotions, but only a few of our 2000 leaders report these as having a detrimental impact on their work.
#6: I trust my boss
[Mean score = 4.12; GLWS Domain – Authentic Relationships]
As it stands, 74% of our respondents in the sample said they always or usually trust their boss. For the 17% of leaders who feel less confident about their leader’s motives and actions, this has the potential to be highly destabilising for their wellbeing, with known negative effects on engagement and job satisfaction.
#7: I [rarely/never] think I am in the wrong job for me
[Mean score = 4.12; GLWS Domain – Meaning, Purpose & Direction]
A lucky 74% of leaders rarely or never feel this way. For the remaining 26%, there are probably days when they question whether they are the right fit for what is required, or if this is really how they want to spend their working lives. GLWS coaching guides deep reflection about roles, career, and alternative possibilities.
#8: I am [usually] treated by my colleagues in the way I want to be treated
[Mean score = 4.11; GLWS Domain – Authentic Relationships]
‘Usually’ is the most common response to this item—suggesting, unsurprisingly, that there is variability in behaviour in the workplace. The good thing is that generally, people feel comfortable with their co-workers.
#9: I feel my personal values align well with those of the organisation I work in
[Mean score = 4.08; GLWS Domain – Meaning, Purpose & Direction]
We believe this is a really important contributor to a leader’s sense of meaning and purpose at work so it’s great to see this one in the top ten. When we feel what matters to our organisation also matters a lot to us personally, we’re far more able and willing to dig deep and commit for the longer term. For those individuals who don’t experience this sense of alignment, it’s likely to be a significant detractor from their wellbeing (but one that may escape notice in many wellbeing measures and interventions). The absence of values alignment can indicate a values clash, where we feel a sense of alienation from the principles that drive our organisation’s practices.
#10: I feel genuinely satisfied with and interested in my work
[Mean score = 4.05; GLWS Domain – Intellectual Engagement & Flow]
There is nothing like feeling your brain ‘switch on’ when you engage in your work! 81% of the leadership sample said they usually or always feel this way. This suggests a great person/job fit contributing to enhanced wellbeing and superior performance. Spare a thought for the 1 in 5 leaders who feel some level of boredom or dissatisfaction with the intrinsic nature of their roles – their days must feel a tad on the long side!
Applying whole-person wellbeing
Despite the unrelenting demands of today’s workplaces, leaders are generally surviving the pressures of their senior roles without it seriously impacting their emotional health at work. Of course, leaders should aim for thriving not just surviving and must work to build mental health awareness and a commitment to wellbeing being rather than the absence of ill-health.
These ten factors undoubtedly contribute to wellbeing, and this, in turn, drives performance. As with any use of mean scores, it’s important to remember there is a range of responses and not everyone in the sample is having a similar experience. Indeed, as noted, there are some who have significant challenges to their wellbeing at work in each of the above aspects.
This range of experience reinforces how important it is to take an individual and personal approach to leadership wellbeing interventions and support. Organisations and wellness practitioners need to acknowledge and respect that unique differences will exist and should be handled sensitively.
If you are a leader, consider how you might respond to each of the 10 items above. What do your responses tell you about your current state of wellbeing? Does anything suggest the need for change—in either your mindset or your actions? Also, consider how your direct reports might respond to each of the above items. How are you fostering their wellbeing in relation to each aspect? What does this suggest about how well you are enabling wellbeing and performance?