Everyone wants to be, or employ, an inspirational leader, the kind of person who gets their teams to go above and beyond the call of duty and put in the extra work needed to get things done. Some companies push their management to use this type of leadership, while other managers push themselves. It’s a big part of modern business philosophy that leaders need to inspire their employees.
But you might want to take it easy—at least a little bit. According to a study done over three years in Denmark, although they tend to have lower levels of absenteeism in the short run, inspirational leaders can actually end up with higher levels of absenteeism over time. That’s because, as they push their employees to perform, and as those employees push themselves to meet or exceed expectations, they come in when they should be staying home.
These employees can then get sick and have a harder time fighting off illness as they continue to work when they should be resting, and they can bring that illness to the office with them and spread it around to others who might not have gotten sick otherwise. So inspirational leaders can actually be making their employees less healthy.
This isn’t to say that inspirational leaders are bad. In fact, they bring a lot of benefits to the workplace. The problem is that it’s more complicated, and has more and deeper effects, than we’ve realized until lately. If you practice, or want to practice, inspirational leadership, you need to think more deeply about your employees’ needs. Part of this model is doing exactly that, but pushing people to give it their all when they should be recovering from illness isn’t helping anybody.
When employees show signs of needing a break or of needing a day off, encourage them to do exactly that. It will work out better for your whole team in the long run.