By Pam Greene
In our modern society, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for those of us in leadership positions take time out for ourselves. The innovations that allow us teleconferencing, emails, and phone conversations wherever/whenever should increase our free time, but ironically, they’ve just turned our 40-hour work week into a 140-hour work week and caused us to ignore the most innovative, powerful tool in our leadership arsenal: our bodies.
I can also hear the collective sigh and eye roll now. Yes, I know; I’m not the first person to remind you that exercise is important and that you don’t do it enough. So I’m going to take lessons learned reading Michael’s posts here at Lead On Purpose and shift the paradigm a bit. What if I told you that working out regularly can actually make you a more effective leader?
It’s true. Taking 20 to 60 minutes every day to run, lift weights, play sports, do yoga, surf, or whatever else you enjoy can increase your productivity and energy, as well as just make you feel better – all crucial factors in leadership. Here are four examples why:
Feel In Charge, Be In Charge
Less Time Means More Time
Building Your Brain
Lead By Example
Working out produces endorphins, chemicals in the brain that promote a sense of well-being and confidence. According to the Mayo Clinic, It also increases your body temperature, which can have a calming effect. Finally, it’s a far superior frustration vent than yelling at your assistant for messing up your Starbuck’s order.
All these factors are doubly important for people in leadership positions. You feel better, thus allowing for grace under pressure, but you also appear to feel better, which has a huge impact on the people looking to you to guide them.
There are a host of physiological benefits to exercise that can actually improve productivity. Not only do the aforementioned endorphins give you a boost better than any cappuccino, but a solid workout promotes a good night’s sleep, which everyone knows makes your waking hours more productive.
And you don’t need to spend hours in a gym for these benefits. A 2008 study from the University of Georgia showed increased energy from a mere 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, three times a week.
When I said it was important to take care of your body, I was also referring to the part that rests on your shoulders.
Working up a sweat improves brain function, which is obviously crucial when you’re calling the shots. There are tons of studies backing this up, one of the most interesting being a 2006 joint study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Vrije University in Amsterdam that saw cognitive improvements in exercising participants ranging in age from 15 to 71. Most of us know that exercise wards off the effects of aging, but as you can see here, it’s never too early to get those benefits.
Another study from 2006, this one out of Leeds Metropolitan University in England showed that when office workers took time to exercise daily, their job satisfaction ratings improved 65%. This, of course, leads to improved productivity.
How does this apply to you? Well, you may be fine on the job satisfaction front, but there’s a lot to be said for leading by example. Seeing that a role model takes time to look after him or herself inspires others to do the same. An edict to hit the gym may fall on deaf ears, but joining them on the court makes a huge impression – and it’s fun.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at the two latest leaders of the Western World. Both George W. Bush and Barak Obama are daily exercisers. All that basketball and bicycling made for some good photo-ops, but it also helped them gain clarity and perspective when making some rather weighty decisions. If it worked for them, it just might work for you.
Pam Greene’s own journey to health and fitness started when a friend suffered through some health challenges. Realizing this was a wake up call to her to focus on her own health, she started learning about Fitness, Nutrition and Healthy Weight Loss. Pam now works for Beachbody, which provides Home Fitness Programs and Work Out Dvds including the well known P90X exercise program. Pam is passionate about sharing tips to help others eat better and exercise for better health.
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March 8, 2011 at 5:20 am
I completely agree. For a leader to be mentally fit and inspire others, they must also be physically fit 🙂
Ram Sharma, School Of Inspired Leadership, Gurgaon, India
April 7, 2011 at 12:32 pm
Perfect – being “fit” at work as a knowledge worker “Cube Dweller” demands that we also make the most out of our time in the gym.
May 21, 2011 at 4:22 pm
Great post, and right on the money. The other great thing about exercise is that you can be 100% certain that you are doing a good and positive thing. Very few business situations are so unambiguous!