Companies have used leadership competency models for years to select new recruits or promising employees as people who will make successful leaders at the company, and to help develop them in the right direction.
But while these models, that detail the skills and types of behavior that make for a successful leader, have undoubtedly been a useful part of HR’s arsenal, there is a growing sense that at least some are misguided. To be clear, it’s not that competencies don’t matter, but rather that other things like lifestyle choices may make a bigger difference.
For example, one behavior that crops up over and over again as a key factor in both leadership ability and employee productivity is sleep. Over the past year, new research has come out linking sleep deprivation (an epidemic in the US, with some 50-70 million Americans regularly not getting enough sleep) to uninspiring leadership and dulled emotional intelligence, on top of the damage it will cause to people’s health and stress levels.
As companies learn more about the business costs of burnout, it’s increasingly clear that employees are less productive, and managers less effective, when under-slept and overworked. Lack of exercise and poor diet also have more of a negative impact on performance than scientists once thought.
Johnson & Johnson’s Approach
Against all this background, Johnson & Johnson has launched new anti-burnout program for senior executives that it has called “Premier Executive Leadership.” Services will apparently include “abdominal ultrasounds at the Mayo Clinic and home visits by a dietitian for cupboard inspections.”
As the Bloomberg piece above goes on to detail, “‘Leaders aren’t a set of skills and tools. They’re a human being,’ said Lowinn Kibbey, the head of Johnson & Johnson’s Human Performance Institute, which developed the program. ‘Many of these leaders arrive in these roles without being equipped with how to stay healthy and resilient.'”
Johnson & Johnson isn’t alone in experimenting with deluxe health and wellness programs for top-level executives: the Mayo Clinic is one of several major US hospitals that now offer executive health packages: expensive, high-touch services that allow busy CEOs to get all of their required tests and procedures done at once.
What makes their program particularly innovative is that whereas some executive health packages are designed to respond to the reality that corporate leaders don’t have time to take care of their health on a daily basis, Johnson & Johnson’s is also incorporating wellness and lifestyle coaching to help executives manage the physical and psychological strains of their jobs.
Considering the substantial cost of losing a senior executive to burnout or ill health, it’s not surprising to see more major companies looking for ways to take better care of their leadership’s overall well-being. It will be interesting to see how successful Johnson & Johnson’s program is and whether others copy its more holistic approach, not only for the impact on the current crop of managers, but also the next generation.