It’s widely accepted that employee wellbeing is related to positive organizational outcomes like better productivity and lower turnover. Wellbeing is defined as a person’s current state of health and happiness. And for many organizations, emphasizing or improving employee wellbeing is a new priority, especially in light of the pandemic’s effect on both individuals and organizations in general.

A great way to start improving employee wellbeing is to focus on leadership. Leaders have significant influence over the culture of their organizations, putting them in a position to positively (or negatively) impact individuals’ wellbeing.

Three leadership styles that positively influence wellbeing

  1. Inclusive leadership. In the inclusive leadership style, the words and actions of the leader show they welcome and have appreciation for other ideas and contributions. These leaders show support by asking for and listening to employees’ ideas and incorporating those ideas into decisions. They also are sensitive to their employees’ needs and consider them in decision making. These attributes help create a culture of psychological safety in which employees are comfortable speaking their minds without fear of negative consequences. Psychological safety helps create a culture of support, fairness, and trust, which is critical when employees want to voice their wellbeing needs. Inclusive leadership also has the power to increase commitment, satisfaction, conflict resolution, engagement, performance, innovation, and resilience.

  2. Empowering leadership. Empowering leaders’ employees feel confident taking on additional responsibility in their own work because they are provided with the power to do so. This style encourages employees to speak up and take charge of their own wellbeing within the workplace. Much like inclusive leadership, empowering leadership can increase trust between leaders and employees, especially when this style of leadership is focused on mentoring and supporting employee development. Increased trust combined with empowerment can help employees feel comfortable voicing their opinions and concerns about work and wellbeing to their supervisors. Research has also shown that empowering leadership can lower perceived stress levels and positively impact employees’ mental health.

  3. Supportive leadership. Another wellbeing-enhancing leadership style is supportive leadership. Leaders who have this style support their employees by helping them to overcome difficult situations; they are open, honest, and fair. Like empowering and inclusive leaders, supportive leaders also create a culture of trust. InVista’s wellbeing study found that, as manager support increases, employees increasingly feel as though they are trusted to do their job.[1][2][3]

Related article: Tips for maintaining a work–life balance: For employees and managers

Supportive leadership is set apart from empowering and inclusive leadership in that there is more direct involvement in employees’ wellbeing journey. Supportive leaders who prioritize wellbeing are heavily invested in helping their employees identify when their wellbeing is suffering and help problem solve when employees are faced with challenges that impact their personal and professional health. Supportive leaders who are focused on wellbeing also advocate for and reward healthy behaviors and accomplishments. In a recent study by Hero Health and Mercer, they found that 91% of employees in organizations that have comprehensive wellbeing programs along with leaders who publicly recognize their employees for their healthy behaviors reported health improvements. Eighty-seven percent of those organizations also reported improved medical costs.

Which leadership style is best?

All the leadership styles described here have benefits for employee wellbeing, and there is no one right way to lead to improve your organization’s overall wellbeing. Leaders should develop a style that works for them while also keeping in mind how they’re impacting their employees. Helping your employees feel supported, empowered, and included will go a long way toward increasing their satisfaction and happiness.

For a FREE, complete guide to how leaders can shape the wellbeing of their employees, click here.

[1] InVista. (2020a). [Unpublished raw data on wellbeing for Beta Client 1].

[2] InVista. (2020b). [Unpublished raw data on wellbeing for Beta Client 2].

[3] InVista. (2020c). [Unpublished raw data on wellbeing for Beta Client 3].