How Leaders Establish a Culture of Well-Being

By Lofaine Bradford, Learning Coordinator, APHSA    March 8, 2024

Leadership entails holding oneself accountable for creating a culture of well-being in the workplace and to those served. Within the human services sector, however, continuous crises often overshadow personal well-being. When the focus is solely on threading water, it becomes difficult to clearly see the way ahead. As a leader, centering well-being ensures that employees can contribute their best even when navigating a myriad of personal and professional challenges.

A workplace culture of holistic well-being starts from the top. Exemplary leaders model it by taking time to foster reflection and growth in themselves first. This means setting reasonable expectations and not pushing oneself to the limit. An overwhelmed leader cannot effectively foster this level of comfort and safety in their staff. Elevating well-being in the workplace requires taking a pause to ensure everyone feels safe and is in a healthy space.

EDIB and Well-being

Leaders who desire to create a lasting culture of well-being in their organization can further it by viewing their workplace through an equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging (EDIB) lens. A report on inclusive leadership, Getting Real About Inclusive Leadership, found that 45% of staff’s experience of inclusion is explained by their managers' inclusive leadership behaviors. Failing to address EDIB as a core feature of workplace well-being does a significant disservice to employees, especially underrepresented groups. Centering EDIB in the workplace starts with recognizing each employee’s distinct background and experiences. When leaders encourage and value their staff’s unique identities, they bolster social connectedness and belonging.

Psychological Safety

Creating a culture of psychological safety among teams and the people who lead them is a key aspect of fostering well-being. A leadership approach based on elevating psychological safety allows for power to shift, elevating the voice and needs of others in planning and decision-making. A leader who sees value in their staff’s diversity, personal efforts, well-being, and performance encourages them to develop personally and professionally. As a result, staff feel safe putting learned experiences into practice in the workplace and communities they serve.

In her book, “The Fearless Organization,” Professor Amy C. Edmondson, author and American scholar of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School, describes team psychological safety as a shared belief by team members that they can take risks and express ideas and concerns without repercussions. A psychologically safe workplace is an environment where staff are comfortable freely expressing their opinions and even admitting failure. In her research, Professor Edmondson found that in a psychologically safe workplace, staff performance is higher, and employees are more committed to the organization’s vision. Effective leaders hold themselves accountable for providing a sense of psychological safety to others.

Psychological Safety and Accountability Matrix
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Check out our new Psychological Safety and Accountability Matrix to learn more about creating a culture of psychological safety and pave the way for a thriving and resilient organizational culture.

About the Author

Lofaine Bradford (full bio)

Learning Coordinator
American Public Human Services Association

How Leaders Establish a Culture of Well-Being

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