Is Role Modeling Health a Vital Aspect of Leadership?

Casey strunk sitting in a chair, plain white background.

As a leader, is it important to keep yourself healthy so you can be a role model for your team?

In a word, yes.

But I did not always see it this way.

I used to compartmentalize my physical and mental health from my professional life.

As long as I was being a good leader, consultant, husband, father and friend, I could justify not being at my best physically.

There came a point a little over three years ago where I had enough.

I knew I needed a change and I needed to show up –  in a different way –  for everyone around me who depended on me.

This is a little bit about my path, and how that has helped to create a culture at my company of care and improvement.

Making a plan, establishing support.

For me, the first step was to make a plan and build support into that plan. This can be something different for everyone – a workout partner, goals recorded and achieved, joining a gym, support groups, etc.

The critical element is to establish what works for you.

What worked for me was hiring a coach.

I just finished week 182 of working with a coach who has helped me track every data point imaginable around my health: prescribed training, macronutrients, sleep, step tracking, stress management, supplements, etc. At age 41, I am in, no doubt, the best shape of my life.

Building habits.

While the physical benefits are great, it is the habits developed through that journey that translate over to business.

Adding a level of discipline and intention in your personal life around your health leads to an increased level of detail in everything that you do, including your business and your performance as a leader.

For me, these habits have also led to more energy, more mental clarity, and increased capacity for stress, and an overall drive for greatness.

As a result, I can be more present for my team, take on business challenges with more focus and handle the usual business fluctuations with poise.

Walking your talk.

My personal health was a reflection of my personal integrity.

How could I stand in front of employers and employees talking about the importance of their health and how it affected their medical spend if I wasn’t walking the talk?

How could I ask my employees to take ownership of their health if I wasn’t doing the same?

Look beyond yourself.

You have to be an example for your spouse, your children, your employees and the world as a whole.

Inspiring others, showing them that better is always possible, starts with living it yourself.

Since starting to work with my coach, I have sent him over 25 friends, family and clients who now work with him.

I led by example and gained happiness from watching people I cared about improve their health and well-being, all the while growing my network of people who encouraged and supported my own health goals.


Don’t preach. Don’t impose.

There is no zealot like a convert. Once you improve your own health and wellness, it is very easy to become enthusiastic…about changing others. You feel so good – shouldn’t everyone want to feel this way?

In a word: caution.

The leadership goal is to inspire. To lead by example. To motivate, spark and influence.

It is not to demand or require. Imposing your enthusiasm on others often backfires. My belief in freedom, in agency, means everyone makes their own decisions, chooses their own path.

Impact on your business costs.

Unpopular opinion: Wellness plans do not work.

Truth: You will spend more time and money implementing a wellness plan long before you ever see the results in your business’ healthcare costs.

Remember: 20% of the population drives 80% of your costs.

Those costs are typically chronic conditions. The other 80% are generally healthy. You will spend a lot of time and energy trying to make the 80% healthier.

What does work? Education.

Specifically, education geared towards chronic populations.

For our clients, we look at the most common illness or ailments and design education campaigns around them. If a 200-member group has 20 people who suffer from depression, mental health is a good place to start. If diabetes and hypertension account for 30 members, a walking challenge or education around nutrition might be helpful. Each population is different and your strategy must be group specific.

To accomplish this, you must first know your data. (Read more about knowing your data here.) Knowing your data is the game changer in understanding, assessing and developing impactful strategies to impact your healthcare costs.

Don’t ignore mental health.

Thankfully, the stigma surrounding the discussion of mental health is dissipating.

Businesses of all sizes recognize the impact of lost productivity, absenteeism, having to recruit and train employees due to high turnover, and even higher health insurance costs – all potentially related to poor employee mental health.

The reality is mental health benefits are costly and difficult to predict.

The opportunity is in what can be offered that will be meaningful to your employees, for example, a yearly subscription to a meditation app, gym membership fees, mental health days in addition to sick days, peer support groups, time off to attend addiction support meetings, etc.

Physical health and mental health are inextricably entangled.

When you improve one the other can’t help but follow.

It starts with you.

I have a whole range of habits I lean into to stay healthy: strength Training four days a week, level II cardio 2-3 days a week, 10,000 steps a day, 7-8 hours sleep (tracked!), calorie ceiling and a minimum protein intake. I actually submit a spreadsheet to my coach and try to hit my macros to the daily number.

These are supported with weekly check-ins with my coach and an increase of new and lofty goals every 3-6 months.

This works for me, it doesn’t mean it will work for you.

It is critical to explore and discover what will work for you.

The prioritization of your physical health is easily observable. I guarantee people will ask you about it.

This is your opportunity to share the details of how good you feel, how your energy is increased, how your mental health is stronger, how your life has improved.

Then, you can share how all of this helps you contribute to a culture where your people are challenged in the best of ways, motivated, and thriving.

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