The Parable of Steve Jobs and Executive Health – Why It’s Okay To Tell Your CEO To Put The Donut Down

Jessica Lee Jessica Lee, Leadership, Succession Planning

Does the health of your CEO, or any of your C-suite members, matter? The President of the United States undergoes annual physicals every August with the results published to the public, so why not begin demanding the same of your CEO? Think about it – last week, talk of Steve Jobs’ rumored declining health was said to have possibly caused a drop in Apple’s stock prices. And this all got me thinking – should C-suite members be accountable to their employees and shareholders when it comes to their health? (Read: execs – put down the donuts.)

First off, let’s address the privacy issue – many are saying that Jobs’ health is not anyone’s business except his own. And as an HR pro, I cringe when any employee’s health issues are made public. If someone needs time off for a serious health condition, the specifics stay between me and the employee. That being said, I can’t help but feel that the rules change a bit when it’s your leader whose health is in question. After all, even the FMLA considers different treatment for key employees when it comes to reinstatement rights… so, perhaps, there is something to treating our execs’ health a little differently, too.

As a starting point, there’s providing executive health assessments, which most major health centersJobs1984 offer. It’s a nice, cushy perk, but for your succession plans, I’d say it’s also smart to add in, if not essential. Want some longevity out of your exec? Then make sure they’re healthy and balanced. Want to know how long you might get out of your exec? Have them participate in physical exams. Imagine – with a relatively healthy exec, you could create a succession plan that projects five to seven years out. With an exec who has high cholesterol, is cancer prone, or is a smoker? Make it a two or three year transition plan. It’s slightly morbid, but it’s also thinking ahead and managing for the next generation.

As Joe Wilcox of Apple Watch wrote,

“Steve Jobs doesn’t just serve as CEO at "the pleasure of Apple’s board" of directors. He serves at the pleasure or displeasure of the shareholders. Restated: He serves shareholders, the real owners of Apple. Steve has obligations to them.”

Yep, I’d say Joe’s on to something there. And for a forward thinking HR pro, your execs’ health has got to be on your mind as a part of your succession plan.

There’s a right for those who need to know, to know.  It’s lonely at the top, but maybe the spa services provided with the executive package physical will make the privacy issues easier to stomach.