Are You a Healthy Leader?

by  Erin Schreyer  |  Leadership Development

I’ve noticed as I creep more into my forties that life feels a lot different than in was in my twenties.  For some aspects, I’m wildly cheering.  I’m so grateful for each year of learning and experiences.  Other aspects of aging aren’t quite as fun.  Recovery (from anything) takes longer, metabolism becomes slower, young children constantly challenge work-life balance, and the stress of increased responsibility can be debilitating sometimes.

Here’s the challenge: our leadership continues to improve as we experience more career and life, and we typically have the opportunity to impact more people as we grow to higher ranks or become more well-known … but, with age, our health and energy-level often decline if we’re not taking care of ourselves.  It’s a real problem.

More people, more responsibility and more stress require more of our energy, and we can’t give our best if we simply don’t have it to give.

Leaders need to have endurance, fortitude and creativity.  They need to get results.  Great results.  They need to inspire people and engage with them – often and with some depth.  They need to rally people toward a purpose, and they need to communicate clearly, consistently and darn-near constantly.  It takes work, heart, emotion, strength, courage, persistence and energy.  Lots of energy, if you want to do all these things well.  (Whew, I’m tired just writing about all of that!!)

You must be healthy to be of sound mind and body.  You must be healthy to be the best leader you can be.

The state of most Americans doesn’t look healthy, though.  I heard somewhere recently, that we’re the most “overfed and undernourished” country in the world.  Ick.  That’s not a flag I want to carry.  Not only are we making bad food choices, but our portion sizes are out of control as well.

I recently read some alarming statistics from the World Health Organization:

  • Cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, and deaths are projected to increase by 45% from 2007 – 2030.
  • The #1 killer in the U.S. in heart disease, but up to 80% of premature heart attacks and strokes are preventable with diet and lifestyle changes.
  • More than 180 million people worldwide have Type 2 diabetes.  Deaths from diabetes are expected to increase by more than 50% in the next decade, if we continue our same patterns.
  • Approximately 1.6 billion people are overweight; 400 million are obese.

I should mention that I’m not a fitness or nutrition expert.  My business is focused on leadership.  I do, however, love to research and find good information.  More than that, I love to feel good.  I love to feel my best, in fact … because I like to give 110% to everything I do.  Don’t you?

So, because I’m not a health expert, aside from trying to improve my own way of living, I’ve simply devised a list of questions you can challenge yourself with.  Really read them and answer honestly.  Perhaps take your responses to your physician, trainer or nutritionist, so they can expertly steer you.

Healthy Leader Challenge

  • Do you exercise regularly?  Research suggests that at least 20 minutes of daily cardio is optimal.  Weight work is also suggested several times weekly to maintain bone density.
  • How much fast food do you eat?  When polled, most nutritionists suggest that “never” would be the right amount for your health.
  • How is your daily intake of “greens?”  Fresh vegetables and fruits help your body to heal and revitalize.  You should ingest more of these than any other kind of food daily.
  • When was your last physical?  You should have one annually.  Additionally, proactive screening should be done for prostate, breast and colon cancer on a regular basis into your 40s and 50s.
  • Do you drink enough water?  Our bodies are approximately 70% water, and we need to replenish this resource in order to function properly.  The average-sized person should drink approximately eight 8-ounce glasses per day.  It’s also best to drink it ice-cold and with lemon.
  • How’s your stress level?  Most importantly, are you doing what you need to appropriately deal with and counteract any stress you have?
  • Are you heart healthy?  Have you ever had a “baseline” test for your heart?  Do you know the warning signs of heart attack or stroke (and did you know they are different for men and women?)
  • Are you getting the rest you need?  Research suggests that your body would love 6-8 hours daily.
  • Are you balancing your needs?  Consider every aspect – mental, spiritual, physical, emotional.  Your well-being depends on all of these being in working order.

Again, this is just a simple list with basic questions, but it’s a good starting point.  Most of us aren’t doing all of these things, so pick just one good habit to incorporate this month.  Keep it, and add another next month.  And keep going…

Take the best care of yourself, because the world needs your leadership.

Comment below if you know of other great tips for each of us to maximize our health and lead with our best! 

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What People Are Saying

Deborah Costello  |  17 Jul 2012  |  Reply

Well said Erin. You are 100% correct. I think people get stuck and forget how good they will feel after exercise and eating well. I always say, 90% is showing up at the gym. Once you’re there great things start happening….

Erin Schreyer  |  17 Jul 2012  |  Reply

Agreed, Deb. It’s incredibly easy to prioritize everything else, but it’s a mistake. I know so many people who feel “selfish” for taking time to go to the gym or workout. They’re doing everyone that needs them a favor, though. With even a short, 30-minute workout on a regular basis, you can impact your health and energy!!

Jon Mertz  |  17 Jul 2012  |  Reply

Essential ingredients to being a truly healthy leader, Erin! For me, it is just one more way we need to set the example. If we lead healthy lifestyles, then maybe – just maybe – some others may follow. It leads to better attitudes, better mindsets, better outlooks, and the list continues. To be a fully engaged and effective leader, our health needs to be included. Thanks for raising the call to action on healthy leading! Jon

Erin Schreyer  |  17 Jul 2012  |  Reply

Thanks, Jon. I love your list of what better health leads to. So true. I know I’m better in every way when I’ve gone for a run and sweat out some stress!!! I can deal with everything better AND I’m more creative!!

John E. Smith  |  21 Jul 2012  |  Reply

Hi, Erin

Very nice post.

I would observe that, for not being a “health expert”, you have certainly created an expert list of things we ought to be doing to keep ourselves at a healthy level. You nailed it:)

I remember as a very junior Army officer being told to model healthy habits, because part of my leadership role was to show others how to live in productive and effective ways. With a few slips along the way (Cheetos, Crunch & Munch, and soda), I have tried to continue living that creed.

As others have pointed out, good health is not selfish or a time-waster. Rather, it may be one of the most important investments we make of our time, money, and energy.

Thanks for a great reminder – I am now dumping the candy bar I was eating and will switch to carrots ASAP:)


Erin Schreyer  |  23 Jul 2012  |  Reply

John, thanks for your comment!! I had a green smoothie for breakfast…and I slipped in a piece of fried chicken at dinner!! LOL!! Balance!! Balance is part of good health too, right?!?!

John E. Smith  |  23 Jul 2012  | 


Fried chicken is a food group all to itself. The big question is whether you left the crispy skin on like God intended or gave in to the health nuts and took it off before chowing down:)


Erin Schreyer  |  24 Jul 2012  | 

Are you kidding?! I’m in Texas now….skin on, baby!! All the way!

Kent Julian  |  23 Jul 2012  |  Reply

Three great questions, Jesse. I especially like your thoughts on “adding value” and “end-results.” Thanks!

Kent Julian  |  23 Jul 2012  |  Reply

Good health is essential for leaders. It allows for consistent participation and contribution to the team. Bottom line, a healthy diet, regular exercise, healthy work/life balance, and a positive mental framework are all keys to success for being a “healthy leader.” Informative post, Erin. You always share great stuff!

Erin Schreyer  |  23 Jul 2012  |  Reply

Thanks, Kent…or should I call you COACH? You know all about the importance of being physically fit. the endurance is so important!!

Thanks for your encouragement!

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