I cut my teeth as an exercise physiologist 18 years ago at the Sports Science Division of the Olympic Training Center here in Colorado Springs. I thought at the time that this was my calling, to work with athletes and do research on how to improve athletic performance. But it was not to be and so I found myself working at CCL with “corporate athletes”. In retrospect, this was fortuitous. I think that what I do has been far more fulfilling and enduring than what I could ever have done in the athletic arena.
When I first began in this field, including fitness in a leadership training program was a novel idea. We were often questioned as to why we took blood, measured body fat, took people hiking/running, and gave feedback and provided coaching on health and fitness during a leadership program? Why indeed? Our stock answer was that a senior leadership position required energy, stamina and good overall health in order to be effective, not just in the short-term, but over the long-term. Additionally, given the level of responsibility and the cost of good CEOs, do companies have a right to expect that their leaders be in good health? History has certainly shown that when senior leaders suffer from poor health, when they have heart attacks and cancer, if they are lacking in energy and their physical appearance suggests that they might not have the stamina to meet the demands of their office, that this can create uncertainty and put the company’s stock in jeopardy.
Yet few leaders consider their health and fitness to be part of their job description. If anything the reverse is true, that health is often compromised in favor of the “job”. Regular exercise, healthy eating habits, a good night’s sleep are all too frequently sacrificed at the altar of the job.
Not that this happens intentionally. It is a creeping phenomenon; gradually the time, travel, and energy demands of the job, not to mention the stress of trying to keep up with it all, takes a toll.
Being fit and healthy doesn’t a good leader make (there are many effective leaders that are unfit) but healthy habits can and do play a role in making good leaders even better. Given the current levels of poor health now seen in both the US and around the world, the world is in dire need of effective leaders, but more importantly effective healthy leaders; leaders who both practice and promote healthy habits. The biggest thing I’ve learned is that when leaders become healthy, people notice. It has a ripple effect beyond just improving the individual leader’s health and energy. It has the potential to impact their families their organizations and collectively, the world.
I challenge you to let the 2012 Summer Games be your catalyst for taking control of your health and would love to hear how you currently are (or are planning on) working good habits into your busy life.