THE ROLE OF THE LEADER
If we ask ourselves and those around us what the role of the business leader is, what would we say? An informal survey with peers and business associates across industry sectors seems to draw the same perception; to ensure the company they lead is financially successful year on year. Under this also comes a whole host of other ‘must dos’.
A successful leader much demonstrate effectiveness to lead their business through times of plenty as well as challenge, be aware of sector trends, developments, players and changing macro circumstances; identifying possible opportunities and mitigating obstacles arising from them, manage resources efficiently and intelligently, and create a thriving business that benefits owners, shareholders and clients.
CHANGING EXPECTATIONS FROM ALL STAKEHOLDERS
However, what we see as the traditional role of the business leader is changing, from a focus solely on results, to not only the results but how they achieve them. Businesses and their leaders are under much deeper scrutiny, with prevalent calls for transparency across all sectors.
The current global climate is one of unrest. Consumers around the world are increasingly unwilling and unable to accept the status quo and zero accountability for the state of politics and business practices that have a negative effect on society, people and the planet.
Consumers are using their voice and leveraging their purchasing power to reflect their values. In a recent study, 53% of people believe that brands can do more to solve social ills than government and nearly two out of three people are belief driven buyers.
In this global climate, the success of a business leader is no longer determined purely by financial profit. In order to be successful, businesses are increasingly called to deliver on the triple bottle line; creating financial profit and value, having morally and socially ethical supply chains and making a positive impact on the planet and people.
Research has shown that those who take a pragmatic approach and place sustainability, ethics and purpose at the heart of their business strategy, perform better.
And its not just for consumers, prospective and existing employees are increasingly placing more importance on factors beyond salary when selecting companies to work for or remain in employment with.
When businesses provide supportive infrastructure, resources and rewards that are conducive to nurturing and bringing out the best in the entire team, they reap benefits of employee loyalty, engagement, creativity, harmony and quality of output.
So how do today’s leaders emerge as ‘successful’ in this new environment? They must first start from within their own organisations, with employees; a company’s most expensive and valuable asset.
A business is literally nothing without its people. Giving them an opportunity to learn, be challenged, while providing safeguarding support and removing all stigma from vulnerability and any need to be supported, has the happy joint benefits to the businesses of superior financials as well as high staff retention, engagement and morale.
Leaders are increasingly called upon to be good shepherds to their organisations and all within them; viewing their employees as whole humans who are affected by their mental, emotional, physical and spiritual state of health and wellbeing.
Each of these core pillars of wellbeing is inextricably linked and must be supported by healthy and accountable practices to ensure employees are able to replenish and re-balance, in order to enjoy sustained positive health.
An employee’s state of wellbeing directly impacts their ability to engage and contribute at work. A hands-off approach where an employee should address their wellbeing on their own time and remit, no longer applies.
The best leaders understand that in order for a business to remain healthy, its entire team has to be healthy; and the best leaders assume the responsibility for the health of the whole business.
As a Good Shepherd, a leader puts in place frameworks, resources and measurability, to ensure the sustainable health of their business and employees; helping their employees feel supported and connected, so they can cohesively work together in unity, with shared purpose and vision.
Easy to integrate tools and simple practices; for example, taking time out for conscious breathing in moments of high stress, can help all workers release cortisol and regain clarity, focus and perspective.
Safeguarding, training and the creation of peer wellbeing officers, provide a supportive safety net for employees who are encountering challenges to mental and emotional health.
Employees who see that their leaders and businesses value them, value the business in return; remaining loyal and committed even in the face of challenge and uncertainty.
EVOLVE OR GET LEFT BEHIND
The wise business leader understands that there is only one healthy choice to be made. Investment in a whole human approach to wellbeing for employees will lead to better returns on all aspects of the business.
Investors, consumers, and existing and potential employees will measure and assess leaders’ and businesses’ overall value and contribution to the wellbeing of the world.
This undeniable call to action offers a valuable opportunity for business leaders to fulfil the full extent of their leadership roles and responsibilities, and be the Good Shepherd in the fullest sense of the words.
 4 Serafeim, G. (2014). Turning a Profit While Doing Good: Aligning Sustainability with Corporate Performance. Brookings Institution. Khan, M. Soon, Serafeim. (2015). Corporate Sustainability: First Evidence on Materiality. Cambridge: Harvard Business School.
 (Psychophysiological Effects of Breathing Instructions for Stress Management Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 2007, Volume 32, Number 2, Page 89 Ansgar Conrad, Anett Müller, Sigrun Doberenz
About the Author
Annabel Wilson is Founder of Living Ashram, www.livingashram.com/, a profit for purpose business created on the belief that businesses can be a powerful force for good. Providing an app based, science and evidence based, root level up, Whole Human Approach to wellbeing toolkit, the company empowers business leaders to foster positive change and create engaged, motivated, thriving teams. With an MBA from London Business School, Annabel has more than 20 years experience at multinationals and mid-sized companies, including Hewlett-Packard, LVMH and Batey Ads (WPP), as well as start-ups at founder and senior management level. Annabel’s commitment to wellbeing extends beyond businesses. As a trustee on the board of Kidscape charity and a member of the leadership council for UNESCO’s Voices of Future Generations, she supports valuable initiatives that enable children to grow up in a world free from harm.