By: Carmine Gallo
Jay Leno once joked, “Now there are more overweight people in America than average-weight people. So overweight people are now average, which means you have met your New Year’s resolution.” He’s right. Expanding waistlines is the new normal. This column isn’t for people who want to be average. There’s plenty of average to go around—average students, average leaders, average managers, average companies, and average communicators. I don’t write about average and as a leader you should want to be above average in every way. That’s why you need to stick to or start an exercise program in 2013.
This morning at the gym I picked up a 25-pound weight and thought about how much more difficult it would be for me to give a keynote speech or walk through a big airport carrying it. I started breathing heavier after taking a few steps holding the weight. Most people carry extra weight around all day. More than two out of three Americans are overweight, averaging 23 pounds heavier than the ideal body weight.
In my career as a journalist and a communications coach, I’ve learned that energetic, charismatic leaders are often among the most fit in the entire company. When I visited Cisco several years ago I learned that CEO John Chambers jogged five miles a day. Oracle chief Larry Ellison is in great shape and is proud of his commitment to fitness. He races sailboats, which is physically demanding. Last year the slim 68-year-old appeared at D: All Things Digital in a tight-fitting sweater looking a lot younger than his age.
It takes energy to travel, to lead a company, and to stay sharp in long meetings. Apple CEO Tim Cook is a fitness buff: working out, hiking and cycling. His commitment shows. I know people at Apple who have told me some incredible stories of Cook’s stamina, especially on grueling international trips. He’s the most energetic person in the room, even after a 12-hour flight.
The title of “World’s Fittest CEO” goes to Dan King of Colorado-based ReadyTalk. King acts as a role model for the rest of his company. ReadyTalk has built a reputation for satisfied employees. The company offers free yoga, massages, and subsidized gym memberships. “People taking care of themselves are going to have higher levels of energy and are going to be more balanced in terms of work life,” King once told a reporter.
Political leaders who do a lot of public speaking appreciate the value of staying fit. Few jobs are more demanding than running for president. It’s difficult to rally the energy for ten speeches a day unless you’re in shape. All of the candidates in the 2012 presidential campaign are fitness buffs. Barack Obama works out early every morning and enjoys pick-up basketball games, Mitt Romney jogged daily and hit the elliptical machine, and Congressman Paul Ryan is devoted to an extreme fitness program called P90X.
If you’re like millions of Americans, you’ve made a resolution to get in shape or lose weight this year. The “average” person will fail to follow-through on that resolution for the entire year. Successful leaders will stick to it.