Monash University, Monash Business School
Leading Sustainably: Turning Hope into Habit
Harnessing insights from neuroscience and behavior-change research, this integrated program uses assessments, experiential workshops, and gamified behavior change to create leaders who possess physical, cognitive, and emotional resilience.
Call to Action
The Monash MBA program’s mission is to create leaders who make a positive impact on a changing world. But the increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous societal environment requires more and more leaders to meet its challenges.
Future leaders need the knowledge and skills required to manage individuals, teams, and organizations, but perhaps more importantly, they need the skills to manage themselves and their own physical and mental capacity over careers spanning more than 50 years. They face continuous stimulation, ever-increasing information overload, and perpetual stress, where focus and resilience are critical determinants of success.
Tomorrow’s leaders need to have healthy, sustainable routines (such as good exercise, nutrition, sleep, relaxation, and social support) and the cognitive and emotional habits (mindfulness, positivity, positive reappraisal) to embrace the importance of physical and mental recovery as the foundation of a sustainable career. They need to have a growth mindset to overcome failure and to understand it as a necessary step to sustainable success.
The Monash MBA Leading Sustainably: Turning Hope into Habit initiative is not only inspired by the critical needs highlighted above, but by a frustrating reality: it is impossible to simply tell someone these things are important and have any hope of sustainable behavior change.
Future leaders must first be convinced of the relevance of change and its benefits to them. Then, they must learn the skills. But most importantly, they must practice and apply the behaviors repeatedly, over the course of a significant period of time, to embed and cement these behaviors into habit.
The first step of the Leading Sustainably: Turning Hope into Habit initiative is to create relevance for each student—to provide the opportunity for each student to benchmark their individual health and recovery at the beginning of their MBA journey.
Through Corporate Bodies International, students are given a thorough health assessment by a team of professionals. Results include total and split cholesterol, blood pressure, blood glucose, body fat percentage, waist circumference, Ausdrisk screen, flexibility, peak flow, aerobic fitness, muscle endurance, and abdominal strength.
The second assessment, using FirstBeat technology, measures heart rate variability, which is an indicator of activity, stress, and recovery. Students wear a special heart monitoring device for three days while creating a corresponding daily journal of activities. Insights include the impact of lifestyle choices on stress and recovery, as well as the surprising discovery to students that they did not get much recovery even during sleep.
Face-to-face workshops debrief these results, impart important knowledge and skills around resilience, and focus on the creation of individual, personalized action plans for each student.
To embed these new skills and behaviors, over an eight-month period, students access “LEDA,” a gamified leadership development app and web-based platform that provides the opportunity for daily practice and application of new strategies and behaviors promoting physical, cognitive, and emotional resilience.
After turning “hope” into “habit,” students have the opportunity to re-assess their health, activity, stress, and recovery outcomes with a second set of assessments.
The feedback and evaluations received from students thus far is incredibly positive and encouraging.
The assessments were eye-opening for many students, who were not aware of their risk profiles across health, lifestyle, stress, and recovery.
For example, a number of students who may have thought of themselves as “fit” (because perhaps they had been in the past, but now were juggling high-level careers and young children), were surprised at the decrease in their aerobic fitness, strength, and flexibility outcomes.
Many other students were surprised at how significantly their diets departed from current recommendations. A number of students also discovered that they were not getting physical recovery during sleep because of chronic sympathetic nervous system arousal.
In all of these cases, students have embraced the goal-setting process and commenced the journey to acheive the goals supported by the LEDA app. Already, the initiative has resulted in greater awareness and interest in health, sustainability, and resilience. Most importantly, it has begun the process of changing behaviors and creating habit.
At the conclusion of the LEDA app experience, the expectation is that students will find in the follow-up assessments that they have achieved goals at a much higher rate than without the structured, daily, long-term practice and application. Their success contributes to Monash’s goal of creating resilient and sustainable leaders who make a positive impact on a changing world.