by Brent Gleeson, Contributor
Fitness has always been a part of my life. From swimming in high school, playing rugby in college, to the relentless focus on fitness as a Navy SEAL, I have always prioritized health and wellness in order to stay competitive in everything I do. I passionately believe being healthy and physically fit has a direct correlation to happiness and success, whatever your personal definition of that may be.
Before my SEAL training began, I kept hearing that BUD/s (Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL) is mostly mental. I understand why people said that because generally guys quit early on because of the extreme mental and emotional stress placed on the students, not to mention being constantly cold and wet. So, my philosophy in preparing for the toughest special operations training in the world was to let my fitness level be the last thing I had to worry about. I knew there would be plenty of other challenges to face. After quitting my finance job in Dallas, I moved to Crested Butte, CO. for three months to train at an altitude of 10,000 feet. The extreme training paid off. Fitness was never an issue for me during BUD/s.
The Officers in any SEAL training class are expected to lead from the front, literally. Officers need to motivate their classmates by being in even greater physical condition that the enlisted students. This is not always the case, of course, but I found it generally to be true. Fitness is part of the SEAL culture and an essential ingredient for mission success. Similarly, in a fast paced entrepreneurial organization, I believe a good leader must maintain mental and physical wellness in order to effectively drive the business forward and inspire the team.
I strongly believe that a fit leader is a better leader, and here are the five reasons why:
- Energy and Productivity: Maintaining a regular exercise routine will give you more energy throughout the day. Leading a growing company is tough enough. Make sure you have the energy to do so effectively. As a leader when you have more energy, you are more likely to face the challenges of the day aggressively and confidently.
- Confidence and Creativity: A fit leader will have more confidence and solve problems more creatively. Studies show that our cognitive ability to be creative increases with even moderate levels of exercise. Whenever I have a speaking engagement or important presentation, I make sure to exercise that day prior to the event.
- Facing Challenges: In SEAL training you are constantly pushed beyond your pain threshold, so much so that your “comfort zone” takes on a whole new definition. I follow the same theory when training by always pushing myself beyond my existing comfort zone. Doing so increases your stamina and mental ability to endure physical and mental suffering. As a business leader, you have to be able to face tough challenges every day while maintaining mental focus on priorities.
- Mental Wellness: Exercise is one of the best ways to manage stress because it boosts your brain’s “feel-good” neurotransmitters called endorphins. Also, by solely focusing on your body’s motions for a period of time, you focus less on the day’s stresses, at least for a while. According to an article by the Mayo Clinic, exercise also reduces symptoms associated with anxiety and depression, while also improving sleeping patterns.
- Influence: If all this is true for the leader of an organization, it must be true for the whole team, right? It is widely believed that healthy employees are happier and more productive. A fit workforce is also less likely to get sick; thereby, improving attendance and reducing healthcare costs. In this article, Fitdigits provides some great reasons why a healthy workforce will improve the bottom line. This, of course, takes us back to leading by example. You can’t expect to foster a culture of fitness unless you, as the leader, are physically fit and promote overall wellness. For example, I occaisionally run boot camps for team members and IMI’s Culture Club holds recess every Thursday afternoon. My business partner and I specifically chose our new office building because it has a great gym right downstairs. Our team has even held several “Biggest Loser” contests. Fitness permeates our culture.
My favorite quote from the Navy SEAL Creed is about always being physically and mentally prepared and never quitting. This paragraph is what drove me in combat and what pushes me forward every day in the chaotic environment of a growing business:
“I will never quit. I persevere and thrive on adversity. My Nation expects me to be physically harder and mentally stronger than my enemies. If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight.”
As a business leader what are you currently doing to ensure a happy, healthy, and productive workforce? I would love to hear your thoughts!