Last summer, I highlighted a few recent studies that had led me to wonder whether the leadership competency models that companies use to guide their leadership selection and development strategies are misguided. To be clear, it’s not that competencies don’t matter, but rather that other things like lifestyle and behavioral choices may make a bigger difference.
One behavior that we are seeing come 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 what everyone already knows about it being bad for one’s physical health and stress levels. As we learn more about the business costs of burnout, it’s becoming increasingly clear that employees are less productive, and managers less effective, when underslept and overworked. Lack of exercise and poor diet also have more of a negative impact on performance than we once believed.
That theory is part of the behind Johnson & Johnson’s new anti-burnout program for senior executives, which Rebecca Greenfield profiled at Bloomberg on Monday:
wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock.com
Spotting a trend, Bloomberg Businessweek writer Sam Grobart tried out the Executive Health Program at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, one of several new programs at US hospitals that offer a new style of premium preventive healthcare for business leaders:
During my visit I was subjected to a series of tests and examinations that, if I’d needed to schedule and attend them individually, would easily have taken two months to complete. (Hearing exams aren’t usually atop my to-do list.) More than any particular test, one-stop shopping is the selling point: Captains of industry can simply block out a couple of days in their calendar and get all their poking and prodding in at once. “Think about the kinds of lives many of these executives lead,” says Dr. Stephanie Hines, the program’s director. “They travel all the time, they’re out at business dinners—it’s not a recipe for regular exercise and a good diet. In many cases, patients are coming to us knowing they’re not taking care of themselves. Their visit here is a way to help get back on track.”
These programs have become standard fare at leading U.S. hospitals. You can participate in them not only at Mayo, but also at the Cleveland Clinic, Massachusetts General in Boston, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, the UCLA Medical Center, and many other major institutions. Some of them even have satellite locations in such executive-friendly destinations as Jacksonville, Fla., and Scottsdale, Ariz. With their high fees and generally healthy patients, the programs are a profit center.
Organizations, Grobart adds, are often paying for their executives to undergo these marathon medical examinations, finding them to be worth the steep price given the risk of a leader suddenly falling ill. Recall the high-profile cases of United Airlines CEO Oscar Muñoz and Valeant Pharmaceuticals chairman and CEO J. Michael Pearson, both of whom suffered major health episodes in 2015 that left their companies scrambling for substitute chief executives, rattling investors’ nerves.