THE BLOG
10/21/2014 11:06 am ET Updated Apr 01, 2015

The Message That Every CEO Needs to Hear

The idea that you're nothing without your health is always present in my mind and has molded the GCC's approach. When I look at the organizations that invest in wellness and provide it to their people, I see organizations who share this mindset.

More specifically, I see strong leadership from CEOs who understand that helping their staff lead long, healthy, happy lives is more than just good business -- it's the most important legacy a business can leave its people.

If you're a CEO, it's worth contemplating whether or not health is something that is valued inside your organization. If you look around, you may see shades of it in your business; maybe you're offering healthier food in the cafeteria or discounted gym memberships. Perhaps you found some budget to distribute wearable devices, or perhaps you even offer biometric screening and Health Risk Assessments. All of these have their place, but I'd argue that the first place you should look for inspiration is in the mirror. Creating a true culture of health isn't a task that can be delegated or paid lip service to, it requires you to lead by example, to quite literally walk the talk.

The CEOs that are able to perform at the highest level are more likely to realize that they'll be better leaders who run better companies if they prioritize physical and mental health. Those executives who take care of themselves are the ones most likely to take better care of their employees because they understand firsthand the connection between exercising each day and remaining sharp, energetic and on form. These same CEOs are the ones who set an example and send the message: 'This company cares about your health, and we expect you to care about it, too'.

A fundamental hallmark of good health is accepting personal responsibility. The healthcare system, the government and your human resources department can help create a conducive environment, but people have to make the effort themselves. This acceptance of personal responsibility amongst employees is a significant predictor of better personal resilience, lower absenteeism and improved productivity.

Making health a priority means weaving it permanently into your schedule and making those around you aware of it. It actually takes discipline to ensure that your calendar doesn't become over-run by late nights and early starts, which means that time for exercise gets bumped day after day, week after week and year after year. You may have climbed the corporate ladder when you were young and full of youthful exuberance, powered by the adrenaline of the daily cut and thrust of business, but as you get older and new demands emerge, you may be reaching a point where you no longer have the reserve fuel tank of energy you once did.

This is often a warning sign, an indication that things have to change. A CEO who lacks energy is a big problem for an organization. Your decision making suffers and so does your ability to concentrate and pay attention. If you show me a CEO who isn't exercising, eating well and getting enough rest, then I'll show you an organization that is bound to follow suit.

The value you place on health is the value your managers will place on it, and it follows that any improvement you make will be multiplied across your organization. It's worth contemplating what this might mean: according to statistics from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Developments, of the 34 OECD countries surveyed:

• Half of the adult population is overweight or obese

• One in three adults are affected by hypertension

• One in 10 will suffer from anxiety disorders such as depression

Read like this, corporate wellness isn't a passing management fad or something that involves ticking a few boxes for human resources. And it isn't a cost, either -- it's an investment in your human capital, and like any capital investment, it has an ROI that you can expect to see at some point.

As a CEO, you cast a commanding shadow that can shape your entire organization, and creating a culture of health is a public declaration of your commitment to your organization's future. Great leaders don't just say "people are our greatest asset"; they actually take care of that asset, starting with themselves, and they demand that those around them make similar commitments. After all, when you say "let's have walking meetings from now on," who is going to disagree?

Most likely no one.