PHYSICAL FITNESS DEMONSTRATES SELF-CONTROL
By Robert Vernon
Leaders are profiled by their followers, who then follow with
confidence or question and resist directions. Self-control is an
attribute that supports a positive leadership profile. It may not
guarantee powerful leadership, but a lack thereof can cause doubts
and reduce respect.
When part of a leader’s profile is self-control, we can expect to see objectivity, deliberate decision making and fairness. A leader is more likely to remain calm under stressful conditions and more likely to overcome personal bias and make decisions based on facts rather than emotion. Self-control makes them a person to respect and follow. Leaders can demonstrate self-control through their physical fitness. Physical fitness requires self-control over your eating patterns and devoting time and energy to an exercise program. It also indicates you participate in a sport or competition requiring endurance and commitment. Fitness affects your self-control, and in effect, leadership abilities.
Fitness Affects Your Life
A strong degree of physical fitness illustrates self-control, and it’s part of a beneficial synergy between the three aspects of human life (physical, intellectual and spiritual). For example, my intellectual ability is either enhanced or impaired by my physical condition. When I’m tired and depleted, I have more difficulty operating at the conceptual level. On the other hand, when I’m in top shape, my mind functions efficiently. Physical fitness contributes to an overall feeling of well-being. It also keeps you alive in a mostly sedentary profession that requires sudden dangerous bursts of high energy.
But, do you have the time to devote to a physical fitness program? Well, no one would consider not stopping to refuel a police car when the tank is almost empty. It does take some time, but failing to do so would make it impossible to perform many of the other essential duties of police work.
Fitness Affects Your Leadership
I was promoted to captain in LAPD at age 36, and was given command of more than 400 officers to police a population of approximately 150,000. I was in over my head. It was necessary to devote more than eight hours per day to even get close to doing an adequate job. I stopped exercising. I didn’t have time. Soon, I began experiencing stress symptoms, and my energy level skidded. Making decisions grew more difficult. At times, I experienced insomnia. Then, my confidence began to decrease.
I saw a doctor. He diagnosed my condition as stress-related and prescribed exercise along with some other lifestyle changes. He cautioned a gradual immersion into a physical fitness program. I took his advice, and I read a book on physical fitness. I decided to get up earlier and begin walking a modest distance. I started feeling better. Soon, I mixed in some jogging. In a few months, I worked up to jogging a full mile. I gradually increased, and began running three miles every morning.
Amazingly, I became more productive at work, had an easier time with decision making, and my confidence soared. In addition, my energy level increased, and I felt great. From that point on, physical fitness held a high priority in my life. To this day, I can’t afford to neglect it. It also feels good to still keep up with my grandsons on the bench press.
How to get started:
1. See your doctor, and get a thorough physical examination.
2. Read a good book on physical fitness. (See www.cooperaerobics.com for ideas.)
3. Determine what exercises your body can tolerate.
4. Begin modestly. It’s better to start too light than overdo it.
5. Establish a routine. Exercising less than four days a week can be counterproductive. [Bob: Do you mean to say counterproductive, or that exercising less than four days a week is not as helpful/useful?] I mean counterproductive. Actually, I have been told that exercising once a week on Saturday, for example, can be very dangerous to you health. Less than four days can be dangerous, especially if the exercise is vigorous. Four is the recommended safe minimum, where being sedentary for most of the time makes vigorous exercise dangerous.
6. Journal your activities, and your results.
Part of projecting a powerful leadership profile is exuding self-
control. One of the most obvious indicators of this is top physical
fitness – on point.
Bob Vernon retired from the Los Angeles Police Department after 37 years on the force. He earned an MBA at Pepperdine University and is a graduate of the University of Southern California’s Managerial Policy Institute and the FBI’s National Executive Institute. After retirement, Vernon founded The Pointman Leadership Institute (visit http://pointmanleadership.org), which provides principle-based ethics seminars around the world for police agencies, parliament members, military leaders and a variety of other groups.