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Why leaders are responsible for the whole person at work

After 6 years as CEO of Jetstar, Australia and New Zealand, and 10 years with Qantas, David Hall resigned at the beginning of this month. Before leaving, David spoke to AIM about the purpose and impact business leaders have, and his special interest in developing a mentally healthy workplace for the whole Jetstar team, as well as for their customers and suppliers.

“As a large organisation that represents a modern society, the factors of depression, anxiety, physical harm, self harm, must be prevalent in our workforce. While organisations are good at managing the physical – we can deal with a sprain or a strain – we are less used to managing mental issues.

“What I have seen have the most impact, and what I am most proud of, is persuading my peers and the team that work with me to look more holistically at the people we work with, and to take a greater interest in influencing not only their physical but their mental health. This has been a focus over the last couple of years at Jetstar.

“We are working hard to equip our workforce with the knowledge and the skills to protect their own mental fitness as well as their emotional well-being, to create the situation where people can, and are, talking about it.

I knew we had to do something about mental heath but didn’t know how.

“Modern leaders today are more accountable, not only to their teams but to customers and shareholders and to a broader spectrum of stakeholders and constituents.

“There are many that are good at operations, at finance. But holistic leaders – who encourage people to bring their whole selves to work – have a much more profoundly positive impact on their teams, customers suppliers and shareholders. And it’s good for business.

A mental fitness commitment

“At Jetstar we have a mental fitness commitment. It’s a commitment from the whole organisation about how we tackle discrimination, eliminate prejudice, break down barriers and create a dialogue. It’s a commitment from the leaders to support people to start the conversation, and a commitment from team members to support those who do. We also have a team reaching into suppliers to create a multiplier effect into other organisations.

“Once led, people are quickly following. I am very proud that the team has really rallied around to provide support and to tackle the stigma, eliminating prejudice and discrimination and breaking down those barriers that prevent people from talking up or talking out about these issues.

“Everyone in the organisation recognises their role as leaders in the movement. Bringing your whole self to work can be risky and it may be hard to measure, but it has a profound impact on the bottom line.

“By having the conversation, we’ve reduced the stigma. People can ask for help and we can point them to employee assistance programs. People will shy away from those conversations, but the areas we don’t talk about are often the most important areas we need to talk about.

Leadership is a behaviour not a title

“Leadership is a behaviour not a title, and as leaders we’ve all got a role. All leaders need to get involved in those things that mean so much to our team and to our communities.

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