The link between fitness and leadership

(Image credit: Danielle Cerullo/Unsplash)

As we have competed in triathlons over the years, we couldn’t help but notice the sense of accomplishment the runners showed when they crossed the finish line. In order to reach the finish line, these individuals applied key leadership skills to achieve an ambitious athletic goal.

The journey they took to complete a triathlon taught us several things:

  • They were guided by a high-level vision and specific goals.
  • They were strategic and took the time to train and recover.
  • They had the support of their family, colleagues and friends to encourage them.
  • They’ve overcome setbacks – whether it’s a bad day in training, injuries or life circumstances.

OWe know from personal experience and research that bbeing physically fit increases mental stamina and stamina which are qualities leaders must possess. Many studies identify the direct correlation between fitness and success. An example study found that physical activity and fitness had a significant effect on executive function (Sport Science Health 2022).

In addition, a person in good physical and mental health is better able to face the difficulties that come with a position of leadership. Exercising and clearing your mind of stress allows you to tap into your creative side – sparking new ideas and innovative business strategies.

Knowing that all of these connections could be made, we designed Lead adjustmentMT, a program that focuses on the basics that apply both to preparing for a fitness challenge like a triathlon and to developing leadership skills. Here is a brief summary of the five connections we make.

The 5 Fit to Lead Connections

1. Take stock of your priorities

The first step is to get intentional with where you focus your attention and time to ultimately get to where you want to go. Taking a “snapshot” of where you are now allows you to determine what you want to do and how you want to spend your time, energy, and talents. By looking at the multiple dimensions of your life (eg, work, fitness, finances, relationships, fun, home environment, etc.), you can begin to assess your progress toward your life goals. Getting this big picture of your life allows you to identify where you excel and where there is room for improvement.

2. Create a vision, goals that inspire you

Leaders know that every successful company has a clear and inspiring vision around which to rally. Creating a vision for your future can motivate and inspire you to take action every day in pursuit of your most important career and fitness goals. Once your vision is clear, the next step is to set goals to help you get there.

3. Develop your agility and resilience skills

Whether it’s leading a team or participating in a sport, it takes focus, preparation and the ability to regain confidence. Successful leaders and athletes need skills to bounce back from challenges and even failures in order to achieve personal and professional success. Optimize your mindset for navigate difficult situations is one of the most important keys to developing your agility and resilience.

4. Create and maintain your support team

Building and maintaining mutually beneficial relationships for your career and your life is the key to success as a leader. Whether you work on fitness or have career ambitions, supportive relationships are essential to achieving your goals. Think of it as saving money for the future: if you don’t invest regularly, it won’t be there when you need it. Investing time and energy in your support network personally and professionally pays off.

5. Celebrate your accomplishments

Once most leaders “check the box” on a goal or achievement or cross the finish line of a race, they quickly move on to the next goal. Some may jump party stage, saying things like “I don’t have time” or “It didn’t matter”. Working and taking stock of your progress in your development as a leader and athlete is BIG BUSINESS, and it deserves special attention. We encourage leaders/athletes to take the time to reflect on all that they have learned and accomplished — and to see this as a boost to their well-being.

We believe the high performance of this synergistic connection is worth the investment. What do you think?

Kari Gearhart is the main of The Performance Bridgeworkshop facilitator and triathlete, and Ashley Tapan is a professional organizational consultant at Badge who coaches and consults with business leaders around the world and swims and paddles in his spare time. Gearhart and Tappan co-created the Fit to Lead program which uses fitness as a forum to develop leadership abilities and they co-authored “REACH – Using Fitness to Develop Your Leadership.”

Opinions expressed by SmartBrief contributors are their own.


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