From the White House to corporate board rooms, most leaders have an element of physical conditioning as part of their regular regiment. I contend that your physical presence is as significant as other common attributes associated with being a leader.
I recognized the value about a decade ago when I first made a commitment to start my own physical fitness regiment. I had been in sports in high school and fairly active as a young adult, but my exercise dwindled after we started our family. I didn’t consider myself as being overweight, but I knew I could be doing more to take care of myself physically. I am by no means a “health nut,” but I have become much more conscious of my nutrition and physical activity.
I tried the workout-at-home routine, but there were too many distractions, so I joined a local gym. It was a grinder to commit to an hour a day for the first few months, but then it got easier and now I try to never cheat myself. Whether it’s a brisk walk during my weekends at the lake or a quick workout at the hotel when I’m traveling, I make sure I dedicate the time.
I also became a food label reader (which continues to drive many of my colleagues and friends crazy). It has changed my eating habits and has influenced those around me to eat better, too. Some of the nutritional information I discovered actually shocked me. For example, I grew up believing that orange juice was a healthy choice for breakfast. I’ve since learned that a 15 ounce bottle of Ocean Spray 100% orange juice has 42 grams of sugar, while a regular size Snickers bar has 30 grams of sugar. I might be better off eating the Snickers bar and having a glass of water.
I don’t set any boundaries for myself in terms of calorie or carb limits (remember, I’m not a health nut), but I do follow one philosophy: eat the best of the bad. That means if I am going to eat chips, I’ll buy the “healthiest” option and, of course, eat them in moderation.
So, I shed some pounds – more than I probably should have early on. But I have been able to maintain a comfortable weight and feel much better. The best part, though, is that I’ve found it’s also good for business:
1. Improves stamina.
Business leaders often get up early and have to have their heads in the game for 12 or 16 hours. But they cannot afford to feel – or look – tired, overworked or overwhelmed. Exercising and eating well have helped me stay fresh and be game-ready all the time.
2. Helps you make decisions.
Sometimes I like to do my deeper thinking when I’m taking a brisk walk or working out on the elliptical machine. It’s an opportunity to clear my mind and focus my attention. We recently were contemplating an acquisition and evaluating if the company would be a good fit. The answer wasn’t clear to me, but a decision needed to be made. So, I took a walk to think it through and returned with a recommendation to not move forward with the deal. The process worked and I felt good about the outcome.
3. Demonstrates to others your ability to be committed.
Choosing healthy habits is a personal decision. It is easier not to do it and even easier to cheat. But it is discipline and commitment that make good leaders. Creating a plan and sticking to it says a lot about a person.
4. Opportunity to connect with colleagues and customers.
The gym is a great place to meet people and catch up with others. It has allowed me to expand my circle of influence with another group of friends. There isn’t a time that I walk in the gym that I don’t personally connect with an employee, customer or prospect. Having your customers and employees see you at the gym is not a bad thing.
5. Sets a good example.
Like most employers, Marco also encourages our employees to practice healthy habits. Setting a good example as a leader is important. As CEO, I mentor employees on many good business practices, and being physically active and eating right is among them.
In my experience, having a physical fitness regiment does matter in leadership. It’s another way to create a stronger presence and project more vitality. So are you in shape to be a leader?