Great leaders lead. They don’t just talk, but they demonstrate and lead by example. It certainly starts inside the office itself (see my post on 5 simple ways to inspire big change), but employer-employee relationships no longer exist only on-premises and inside of working hours building. In other words, if CEOs (Chief Exercise Officers?) and executives want those who work under them to get and stay healthy, they have to do the same. When the boss says jump, employees ask “How high?”… and then wait for the example to be set.
Let’s take a look at some prominent and public role models who don’t only talk the talk but also walk the walk. Briskly.
Presidents and First Ladies/The White House
President Barack Obama is famous for playing basketball with his buddies, and for sticking to a rigorous exercise routine (can’t you just picture him playing with this basketball arcade game in the Oval Office?). First Lady Michelle Obama, meanwhile, has inspired the nation’s children to move more.
Many of our former Commanders-in-Chief have touted physical fitness. Theodore Roosevelt was known to love horseback riding. Gerald Ford was unfairly depicted as being clumsy – he was actually offered professional football contracts after college! Ronald Reagan captained his college swim team (John F. Kennedy swam as well) and George W. Bush completed a marathon in less than four hours.
Richard Branson has taken on some extreme activities – skydiving, skiing, sailing, adventure races and more. He says the key to being productive and still staying healthy and in shape is to wake up early and stay as focused as possible on the task at hand.
Branson also allows his employees to have a strong work-life balance, encouraging them to spend as much time with family as possible, and to avoid becoming workaholics. He’s even joked about trying to fit a treadmill under his vacation home hammock. May I suggest this treadmill desk?
He may not look like a super-fit CEO (and sure, he spends a lot of time behind a computer screen) but Mark Zuckerberg and his team at Facebook know that happy, healthy employees are more productive.
In 2016, Zuckerberg set out to run 365 miles in 365 days. He’s also reportedly told his employees that if Popes and Presidents can find time to exercise, so can they. Facebook also offers some really great employee benefits like on-site fitness facilities, incentives for staying healthy, progressive parental leave packages and more.
You get health! And you get fitness! And you get the tools to stay on track with your goals!
Oprah Winfrey is one of America’s sweethearts, and she’s been very transparent with her own struggles through weight loss, fitness and self-image. But through the years, she’s also encouraged her employees and her audience to join her in continuing to try to make changes.
She’s completed marathons, advocated for healthy food options in her buildings and workspaces, and recently partnered with Weight Watchers to document her ongoing journey. This Weight Watchers scale actually does a body analysis, which can give more meaningful information than just weight.
Frits van Paasschen
A former CEO of Starwood Hotels and Resorts and executive with Coors Brewing Company, van Paasschen has been called one of America’s “Fittest CEOs” and reportedly exercises six days a week. He’s completed an Ironman triathlon (maybe he used this indoor cycling bike at work or kept swimming accessories in his suitcase?).
As a vegan, he also reportedly changed menus at his offices to include more options, especially for healthy and diverse diet needs.
Through my work at Growing Bolder, I was able to learn about Rosen’s commitment not only to his own health, but to the wellness of his entire community – those who work with and for him and those who don’t (see Harris Rosen’s Prescription for America).
His healthcare program has been touted as a game-changer by executives across the country, and has even caught Oprah’s attention (see above for her work).
T. Boone Pickens
T. Boone Pickens once dreamed of being a basketball star, but when his career turned toward business, he managed to marry the two passions.
In 1979, he built a 30,000-square foot fitness center in one of his companies and began a corporate wellness program for all employees and their families. And more often than not, you could find him on the racquetball court or other area, coaching people and encouraging them to keep going. He spent a lot of time on a stationary bike, too!
Marc Middleton/Growing Bolder
I’ll admit. I’m biased, because I am in awe of my inspirational, very-fit boss Marc Middleton. He holds national records in masters swimming, awards and trophies for masters track and field and encourages all of us to get and stay in shape.
He’s attended races, cheered us on at sporting events, allowed us to arrange our schedules around time at the gym or personal training and helps us come to an office every day where we feel supported and appreciated.
Are you a CEO who is inspiring your employees? Should we know about your boss or a co-worker who is worthy of recognition? Let us know!