Leadership through a lens of health and wellbeing….

This blog, written by our co-founder Claire, is a summary of the work we have just completed on behalf of the NHS North West Leadership Academy, exploring the development of a healthy leadership behaviour framework #NWHealthyLeadership


Back in spring 2020 we were commissioned by the NHS North West Leadership Academy (NHSNWLA) to support them with their Health and Wellbeing Strategy, with a particular focus on identifying the leadership behaviours which promote and detract from employee wellbeing at work.  The reason for wanting to develop a framework was:

  • to raise awareness of the impact that leadership behaviours have on wellbeing at work,
  • to gives leaders a remit to discuss and promote wellbeing at work (which is aligned with the requirement of the NHS People Plan to ensure from September 2020 that everyone has a  wellbeing conversation)
  • to show what leaders can do behaviourally to promote wellbeing at work
  • to support the development of interventions to help leaders develop healthy leadership behaviours that promote wellbeing at work

The approach we took was to:

  • Identify from the academic and practitioner literature which leadership behaviours are associated with employee wellbeing (click the link for a flipping book outlining the evidence base)
  • Ask employees and managers across the public sector to tell us which leadership behaviours support and detract from their wellbeing at work
  • Develop a healthy leadership behavioural framework which highlights leadership behaviours which have a positive and negative impact on employee wellbeing at work (click the link to access the framework)

The resulting framework contains three competencies / clusters (identified from the stakeholder discussions):

  • How I am (being) Actively engage with opportunities to understand and enhance positive mental and physical health for self and others, sharing own experience, being authentic
  • What I do (doing) Actively support and empower others to manage work and how it’s done
  • What we do together (enabling) Actively empower an inclusive healthy wellness culture that mutually enables us all to bring our whole selves to work

Each competency / cluster contains both positive and negative leadership behaviours (examples given below):

  • How I am (being)
    • Positive – being open, honest and transparent (authentic)
    • Negative – lacking empathy
  •  What I do  (doing)
    • Positive – trusting individuals and teams, giving them the autonomy and control to do their jobs (empowerment)
    • Negative – making decisions without consulting others (e.g., authoritarian /autocratic /command and control/directive style)
  • What we do together (enabling)
    • Positive – creating an emotionally supportive and psychologically safe work environment (positive, caring and supportive climate where people can speak out)
    • Negative – micromanaging others and disempowering them

The framework could be used in a number of ways including:

  • Recruitment – integrating the framework into role profiles, assessment processes
  • Development – integrating the framework into PDR, appraisal, 360, training, induction
  • Day to day – integrating the framework into 1:1 and team conversations
  • Strategy – including the framework in Board discussions to support the HWB guardian role in providing governance around health and wellbeing leadership behaviour

We would welcome your views about how you could use the framework in your organisation, so please do get in touch with us.