Saturday, August 4, 2007

Be Fit

This is the 6th in a series addressing the key elements of a leadership philosophy. I call them the “7 BEs of a Leader.” Before assuming a new leadership position, Army pre-command training includes time to create one’s personal leadership philosophy. This is a great exercise, one that I have done deliberately many times. I have found that articulating my beliefs, my core values, and what exactly makes me tick are critical elements to share with my subordinates. Doing so, from the beginning, eliminates uncertainty – with subordinates and those whom I serve (customers, stakeholders, etc.) - and helps define the culture and leadership climate that I seek to create. It, like me, is a work in progress. So let me know what you think.

Be Fit

Few areas offer the opportunity to lead by example like fitness. Leadership by its very nature is from the front, always on display. We are constantly being measured, for better or for worse. We simply cannot take the “do as I say, not as I do” approach with regard to fitness if we want any credibility. In taking care of others and in affording them the opportunities to be successful, we need to carefully assess how to invest in their welfare, as well as our own.

This is an area that is ripe for leadership. If we want healthy, energized teammates, we must lead the way. We must lead a life of balanced fitness. And we must find ways to provide similar opportunities and incentives for subordinates. Fitness is the business of leaders.

The benefits of fitness are incalculable. A fit leader enjoys lower stress and higher productivity. They have the energy and stamina to go the distance, to do what needs to be done to outwork or outlast the competition. They are able to energize and inspire those around them by providing an example of balanced fitness that says, “Follow me!”

Healthy employees think and work better on their feet. They generally have higher morale. They are less likely to miss a work day due to illness, placing a lessened demand on soaring personal and organizational health care costs. And they present a positive image of health and energy to customers and stakeholders. Physical fitness makes sense (cents?) on every level!

These returns do not come without investment. Leaders must make reasoned business decisions (cost/benefit) and consider outlays in areas such as:

· Health care (16% of Fortune magazine’s Best Companies to Work For offer full medical coverage).
· Health club memberships (always one of the most valued employee benefit programs).
· Company sports teams.
· Smoking cessation and weight loss programs.
· Proactive physical exams and check-ups.

Fitness is part of a balanced approach to life and leadership. It represents the understanding that we are committed to the overall success of teammates, not just their work output. It implies that there is more to life than work. Thus a balanced commitment to fitness requires investments in other components of our lives to include: spiritual fitness (go to church, synagogue, etc.); family relationship fitness (regular vacations, attendance at our children’s events, and getting home early enough to help with school work); and social fitness (spend time with friends, go to a party, get some rest).

Leadership is from the front. In a life of balanced fitness we lead by example. And by providing opportunities for health and fitness in others, we change lives in meaningful, life-changing ways. And when you think about it that is what leadership is all about. Be better, improve your team, and make a difference.

Be fit. That’s Leader Business.

P.S. Check out my favorite fitness website, CrossFit ( The workouts are crazy and I love their attitude. Many of our deployed troopers work out the CrossFit way. Hooah!

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