The higher one goes up the corporate ladder, the more a healthy lifestyle becomes non-negotiable. The work pressures and other office-related stress factors that a leader experiences do increase once he assumes more responsibilities. The expected irritability and snappishness can degenerate into anxiety and burnout.
Ironically, however, a lot of these high-powered executives do not adapt a healthy lifestyle, citing lack of time as one deterrent. Sometimes, even a weekend vacation, let alone two weeks’ worth of vacation leave, is hard to schedule. And because quitting is not an option, they keep on working until they suffer an emotional breakdown, a medical condition, or both.
This incident does not just affect their personal lives or their professional responsibilities, but it can also impact other people – the teams, the departments, and the organizations they manage. Productivity and the fulfillment of deliverables can slow down without them at the helm. Their partners and allies may not have the same confidence in their temporary successors. If the organization is largely dependent on one’s leadership, which can happen to small and medium-sized businesses, sometimes the whole executive team will postpone major decisions until the CEO recovers and returns to work.
Dr. Pompeyo Bautista, the Medical Director of Fe Del Mundo Medical Center, points out the critical connection between a leader’s health and the robustness of his business. He says, “Poor health can result in the decline not only of the health of the CEO but that of his business. Improper stress management can lead to headache, lack of energy, and other body pains. These increase the chances of his development of hypertension and cardiovascular illnesses. Obesity can impact people’s perceived leadership potential in a negative way. All these can interfere with the day-to-day running of his business.”
Although there are exceptions, certain medical conditions are identified with a particular demographic of a leader or CEO. Middle-aged managers, especially males, in their 40s to 50s are more prone to experience heart-related illnesses like a heart attack or hypertension. Their female counterparts are less susceptible because of the production of the female hormone known as estrogen; however, once menopause sets in and the amount of this hormone in their body lessens, women leaders should start watching their heart’s health as well.
Meanwhile, the younger leaders like millennials are more vulnerable to the onset of anxiety and depression.
Regardless of age or gender, however, unmanaged and overwhelming stress remains a threat to the vitality of the leader. Sometimes, one tends to ignore the symptoms until it is difficult to do so: bodily aches and pains, headaches, insomnia, low energy, and tense muscles. Once one or a few of these symptoms manifest constantly, it’s time for the leader to take that much-needed break or at least slow down, despite the hectic grind.
Dr. Bautista continues, ‘Try to get six to eight hours of sleep. Get away from the stressor, if possible. Be active because exercise can relieve mental and physical tension. Cut back or quit any habit associated with the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine.”
An annual medical check-up is highly recommended once the leader reaches the age of 40. Any diagnosis given by the doctor, especially if it reveals hypertension or diabetes mellitus, should be taken seriously. The physician’s prescriptions should also be followed rigorously.
Dr. Bautista adds that exercise must be given priority by the leader if he wants to remain healthy. Steps can be taken towards improving physical health even if a packed schedule prevents regular visits to the gym.
He enumerates, “Instead of taking the elevators, he can just take the stairs if the flight is only a few steps up.
Instead of calling his staff on the phone or communicating through chat, a CEO can walk around like making rounds and going to an employee’s table. Little time or no time for exercise can cause obesity and various metabolic abnormalities like diabetes mellitus and metabolic deficiencies like vitamin deficiencies. On the other hand, exercise can combat the negative physical effects of high stress levels. It also has a positive effect on the company. The creative potential of a leader surges directly after an aerobic exercise according to a study in the Creativity Research Journal.”
To embark on this journey towards health, the high-performing CEO, however, must be realistic and honest enough to acknowledge that he is not always a superman and can use the help of a support system. This is true especially when it concerns emotional and mental health.
Dr. Bautista points out, “People who have risen to CEO status are also human; they are more prone to pathologic personalities like narcissism, over optimism, fear, anger, and depression. Unfortunately, people in high positions are too ashamed to admit that they are depressed and stressed out They should not be afraid to reach out to a close friend or family and confide. They should build a support system like family friends or a faith-based organization. Professional help from a psychiatrist can help them manage stress and reduce their work load.”
Ultimately, the CEO’s excellent health will positively affect the company, and not just because he continues to perform without succumbing to the stress. Dr. Bautista says, “The CEO can set an example to the company’s employees by leading in the promotion of good health and good work life balance. Good physical health results in good mental health.”
And the collective positive mental health of the workforce can result in consistent productivity, creativity, energy, and even high morale.