Corporate leaders often look in complete control and seem to engage their markets with precision, confidence and control to generate profit. However, in truth, there is a very different scenario unfolding just beneath the surface.
More leaders have become susceptible to the affects of stress than ever before says Alison du Toit, an associate member of the Centre for Conscious leadership (CCL), a South African consulting organization specializing in leadership learning and transformation.
There is a definite and growing need for the implementation of a work/life balance strategy she says.
Factors such as the expansion of technology, globalization and communication in an ‘always-on’ society are taking their toll on company leaders.
“Furthermore there is an increase in a prevailing scarcity mindset – a feeling amongst leaders that they have to do more with less resources against greater competition in harsher conditions and do so quicker than ever before,” adds Du Toit. “In our experience, the leader eventually succumbs to job burnout, depression, physical exhaustion and the blurring of boundaries with more work being taken home."
According to consultants at CCL this scenario is having a detrimental impact on individual leaders, the companies they represent and – ultimately – the markets that are being targeted.
“Leaders have a widening span of control due to the flattening of structures. Their leadership today takes place by influence and not direct management with more outsourcing, alliances and joint ventures. In addition to an increase in physical demands on the individual, there is also a significant increase in the networks of leaders and their ‘unlimited’ collaboration requirements,” says Du Toit.
This pressure and stress has changed the picture in terms of leadership style and development. The change also brings about further stress as the individual faces not only his or her own personal challenges, but also that of the organisation.
Associate members and consultants at CCL advocate the implementation of a work/life balance strategy as the primary means of intervention that is the co-responsibility of both the organization and the individual.
“A carefully implemented work life balance strategy greatly decreases both real and perceived overwork and out of balance pressures that hamper productivity, resulting in a dramatic positive return on growth and the bottom line. There is a definite competitive advantage with respect to talent – people are attracted to organisations that have a positive work life culture.”
The success of this form of intervention is greatly dependent on the contribution of all parties.
The individual must develop a deep self awareness in order to identify and understand the source of stress, concentrate on boundary setting and be aware of health and diet and incorporate this into their schedule.
“At the same time the organisation needs to provide the necessary tools to assist in managing stress. This could include the offer of gym facilities, wellness development programmes, leadership coaching and other work/life balance options,” Du Toit says.