Any continuous improvement process depends a great deal on leadership for direction and support. The College of Alberta School Superintendents (CASS) and the Alberta School Employee Benefit Plan have been involved, at the direction of the CASS Board of Directors, in leading positive change for members related to mental well-being within the context of wellness. The early stages of the Resiliency in Leadership (RIL) project (to identify resources and supports for leaders that improve their resiliency) considered the benefits of psychological capital in relation to mental well-being.
The next phase of RIL includes a new partner, the McConnell Foundation, and specifically the K-12 education arm of the McConnell Foundation known as WellAhead. The main goal of this work is to increase the understanding of mental well-being across all levels within the education sector, using leaders as the igniters in this process. Having leaders at the school authority level who are invested in making a positive difference in the wellness and mental well-being of staff and students alike should propel this vital work forward.
Ability to be Well
So, why is this important? While we are all aware of the many potential stressors in the workplace, we see and hear stories of kindness and compassion too, which leads to resiliency and helps to act as a buffer. The result is feelings of hope, confidence and optimism. There is considerable research that indicates strong connections between psychological capital and authentic leadership that promotes our ability to creatively solve problems and increase our productivity at work, play and life, in general. But, it’s important to note that these psychological traits won’t develop by themselves. We need to invest time and resources if we want to achieve these big goals.
The Creativity-Wellness Connection
I read an interesting study that concluded employees who had high levels of psychological capital (hope, efficacy/confidence, resilience, optimism) and worked with authentic leaders had higher levels of creativity. This higher level of creativity resulted in increased innovation, which led to more creative solutions, increased motivation and increased wellness overall. It’s like a well-being ripple effect at work—similar to the positive flywheel Jim Collins describes in Good to Great.
Authenticity is Key
Now, think about bringing our whole selves to the table in everything we do. A strong feeling of wellness is enhanced in safe environments established by authentic leaders. All of us lead, at a minimum, ourselves and perhaps our families (and workplaces). Wellness and authentic leadership promote higher levels of creativity. Creativity supports change, learning, business competitiveness and achievement in general. This, in turn, leads to an even stronger sense of wellness for self, family, team, organization and community. The importance of leadership modelling wellness and mental well-being cannot be overstated!
Lead the Way
Adults who model wellness and mental well-being have a direct, positive impact on other staff and students. Positive learning environments provide increased opportunities for learning for all. It’s important for leaders to explicitly support wellness and mental well-being as core to learning, rather than as an extra or ‘add-on.’ How can you encourage others on your team to lead the way to wellness?