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Sustainability in leadership – A salutogenic approach

One aspect which has a very strong impact on employee performance is healthiness. Although it is the responsibility of every single person to take care for their health and to avoid illnesses, the company of course has a great impact and a basic interest that their workforce stays healthy.

To create framework conditions which ensure a safe working environment is already common in the companies of today. Henkel for example has a very extensive health program in place – including special health and sport programs, information events as well as medical check ups etc. But beyond that central offer, there is another measure which could help companies to maintain the healthiness of its staff: Salutogenic leadership.

Salutogenesis is basically the opposite of pathogenesis and focuses on resources people have and need to stay healthy. The key question is ‘What causes health?’ not ‘What are the reasons for a disease?’. The prospective concept was first invented by Aaron Antonovsky in 1979 and since then was conveyed to different topics, also to leadership scholars and research.

But what exactly does a ‘salutogenic leadership style’ may look like? It is not a toolkit of brand new leadership measures what makes it unique, but the whole framework and mindset behind it. Some aspects of a leadership style which helps to maintain healthiness are:

This is not a complete list but shows what to emphasize and that this is a leadership style which requires certain social management skills. Anyhow, not only the behavior of the superior is important here. The culture of the organization needs to be ready for this kind of mindset. In a culture of short-term orientation, pressure and top-down communication a leader who tries to follow the concept of salutogenic leadership would most probably fail. As it is proven in various studies that the daily leadership style has an impact on the healthiness of the employees companies who would like to foster a sustainable concept of leadership should have in mind, that a holistic approach is needed. An integrated understanding of healthiness must be established as a mindset and health-promoting factors have to be considered in all the management decisions. Healthiness is a value which then has to be fostered – sometimes even though this is not aligning with short-term results.

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  1. 09/17/2012 - Author: Anders Hanson

    The salutogenic approach is working very well in several organisations in Sweden. See my book “Workplace Health Promotion-A Salutogenic Approach”. There it is described as a strategy with help from Sense of Coherence.

  2. 10/02/2013 - Author: Emma Vinton

    Hi I love this concept and am going to write about it for my Masters in Public Health Leadership and management essay. I would also like to explore it for a PhD. Any advice or support would be greatly appreciated. Regards,
    Emma Vinton

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