I recently finished my 850th class at OrangeTheory Fitness. And while this accomplishment is something I’m proud of, it is also an opportunity to highlight something that many CEOs don’t consider – their health.
While we go full throttle on running our companies, focused on growth and expansion, ducking and tackling our challenges, it is easy to let our own physical health become an afterthought. It’s easy to be consumed with your company and its next steps versus thinking about what your body needs. We work long hours, we run from meeting to meeting, we think we can do more if we just work a little longer.
How many meals have you eaten on the run or at your desk while plowing through emails before the next call? How often have you put off your annual physical/colonoscopy/mammogram/gyno/dentist appointment because you just didn’t have time? Or rather, didn’t make the time? Steve Jobs and many other top CEOs have paid the price of putting their health to the side in pursuit of their businesses.
To get to the point, Leaders must prioritize their own health (and the health of their employees). Employees, clients, and boards of advisors all need them at the top of their game. This involves regular exercise, which helps combat stress relief and provides for general cardiac health. And while this doesn’t prevent the completely random “had a heart attack out of nowhere” occurrence, it does help lead to better overall physical and mental health.
In this culture of burning until you can’t go anymore, it’s important to consider the ramifications of this mentality. Companies are led by people. People break down. They aren’t robots and they can’t consistently put in 16-hour workdays and have their performance stay the same (much less improve). We’ve all had to grind away on weekends, late nights when it matters. That’s what leaders do. But knowing when it’s not effective and when to stand back is also just as important. Not everything is a crisis and not every problem should be solved by the CEO.
Companies who are led by healthy leadership who value time off just as much as time on is important. Mental health is more important these days than ever. And physical health makes for a much better functioning leader.
Note that I haven’t always followed this advice myself, nor do I have all the answers! I work out 4-5 times a week and try to get as many dog walks in as possible. I work out at 5 am because that’s the only time that I know I won’t prioritize our companies ahead of my own health. I have the least number of excuses first thing in the morning. It’s also extremely satisfying to know that no matter what goes sideways in the day, at least that was accomplished, and it was something for myself.
Everyone must figure out what works for them. Sometimes it’s a late-night workout to work through the stress of the day. Sometimes it’s a prepared foods diet. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s something you want.
Do it for yourself, not others. Make those dreaded doctor’s appointments. Listen to your body. Move your body regularly. Get enough sleep. Eat healthier. Incorporate these into your daily life and you’ll be a much better leader, for everyone.
Stephanie Alexander is the founder and CEO of BOOST LLC, a company that’s dedicated to helping to support government contractors with their corporate functions and needs.
Apart from her role as BOOST LLC’s fearless leader, Stephanie is a prolific writer and speaker on a variety of GovCon facing topics, such as successful teaming, growth and sustainability, and much more. Her advice is sought after by a multitude of government contractors.