Medicating to survive - a failure of leadership

Ex-Liverpool and Denmark defender Daniel Agger has admitted that taking copious quantities of painkillers and anti-inflammatories to get him through matches significantly shortened his playing career. The only surprise in this is that it wasn't a surprise. In sport, education and business medicating your way to survive has become increasingly prevalent.

At the 2010 Bonn marathon over 60% of amateur runners who were surveyed admitting to using pain killing or anti inflammatory pills to help them race.

Some researchers suggest that up to 30% of college students take stimulants such as Adderall to help them cram and get through exams.

A 2012 survey for Drinkaware found that 44% of adults said they were more likely to drink after a stressful day at a work. A large class of something cold when you get home seems to be a pretty common remedy for stressful work environments.

The common feature in all three situations are cultures that not only permit, but encourage, this sort of self medication as a coping mechanism. That is a catastrophic failure of leadership because leaders shape the culture in which we operate. It is a failure by football club managers, directors, agents and senior players. It is a failure by college principals and professors. It is a failure by business owners and managers.

Change the culture. The remedy is an appropriate (manageable but challenging) workload balanced with sufficient, high quality, recovery. The upside? More engaged and productive people, less human train wrecks.

It isn't complicated but it does require bravery, effort and persistence.