Leadership and Physical Fitness: The Critical Link

Leaders embody confidence when they’re physically fit. Additionally, there’s a strong tie between leadership and physical fitness.

For the Army, we exercise every day. It keeps the force ready to fight.

Even though you’re not fighting bad guys, being fit helps you learn more about yourself, overcome pain, and cope with life.

It may seem odd to link leadership and physical fitness. However, you’re not getting fit for the sake of getting fit. Instead, you’re exercising for self-discovery and learning how to be the best leader you can be.

Here are three reasons why leadership and exercise are linked.

Leadership and Physical Fitness

Photo by Anna Shvets

Exercise Promotes Self-Discipline

When fitness becomes part of your life, you become more conscious about your time. The most precious resource we have is time. As a result, morning workouts become part of the routine.

You begin to plan your workouts and how much time they’ll take. Also, you’ll be more aware of your other busy parts of your life.

Exercise will help you be aware of your time, which is critical as a leader. Knowing how long tasks will take helps you to prioritize your day. And, daily exercise teaches you that skill.

Exercise produces self-discipline. It takes a disciplined person to wake up at dawn to work out.

David Goggins talks about the link between self-discipline and exercise in his book Can’t Hurt Me. As you reach physical feats, you learn more about yourself and life itself. Further, you grow as a leader when you experience and overcome painful experiences. Exercise teaches you that skill.

Here are some suggestions on how to start exercising:

-Start going on morning walks for fifteen minutes

-Ask a friend to exercise with you

-Get an accountability group

The most important part of being a leader is starting with self-discipline. There’s no better way to start that habit than to start becoming fit.

Leadership and Physical Fitness

Photo by Rene Asmussen

Fitness Promotes Presence

One of my former bosses was tall, lean, and in good shape. Every time he walked into a room, his sheer presence demanded attention.

Even though he was a humble person, he exuded an aura of confidence in how he presented himself. He walked with sureness, head high, and had an astute demeanor. His foundational habit behind his command presence began with daily exercise.

You don’t need to look like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson or Jennifer Aniston. It’s not about physical appearance at all. Instead, it’s about feeling confident in your own skin.

Leaders must feel confident about themselves to work effectively. That’s when they become the best assets to their teams and companies. Moreover, learning to be physically fit can eliminate one of those factors that contribute to self-consciousness.

Here’s an example of a link between physical fitness and leadership. The Army identifies “presence” as one of the core leadership attributes. To have a presence, a leader must have a way to exude confidence in their teams. One of the best ways to do that is through physical fitness.

Leaders who know how to take care of themselves may lead their teams more effectively. There are more factors than physical fitness that contribute to the whole of a person. However, the foundation is fitness.

leadership and physical fitness

Photo by mali maeder

Physical Fitness Is A Foundational Habit

Charles Duhigg’s book The Power of Habit begins with a story of a woman who wanted to quit smoking. So, she replaced smoking with walking. She walked her way to quitting smoking and felt like her life changed.

She was an ordinary person with a common problem. Establishing habits applies to leadership too.

Another book I recommend is Make Your Bed by Navy Admiral McRaven. He suggested you start the day by making your bed as the first decision of the day. Everything else that follows is better when that happens.

Similarly, if the second thing you do to start the day is to exercise, then you’ve already made the next right decision to start your day. A string of good decisions can build your day into making more good decisions. So, start by making your bed and then exercising.

Also, being in shape helps you feel more confident. When you make exercise a priority, you’ll see how your leadership style will change.

Leadership and Physical Fitness

Photo by Pixabay


I believe that you can start a good exercise habit. In reality, your new-found exercise regimen will transform other parts of your personal and professional life.

I will caution you to avoid a direct correlation between fitness and leadership. Not everyone who is in great shape is a great leader.

Rather, fitness habits indicate someone’s potential to organize and lead through self-discipline, presence, and habit creation.

Additionally, other leadership factors are in play as well. Remember the Army’s core leadership attributes? Presence is only part of leadership.

Regardless, if done correctly, being physically fit will help you feel more confident, competent, and better prepared to face more challenging decisions.

Do you think that physical exercise affects how you lead? Leave your comment below. Thanks for reading!

Books Mentioned

Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins. Read a book review here.

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. Read a book review here.

Make Your Bed by Admiral William H. McRaven

Photo Credit

Featured Image: Nathan Cowley

1: Anna Shvets

2: Rene Asmussen

3: mali maeder

4: Pixabay


6 thoughts on “Leadership and Physical Fitness: The Critical Link”

  1. I like the way exercise makes me feel.  The step forward is easy, secure and I know I am steady on the spot.  I feel able to tackle anything.  The confidence for me is acquired no other way.

    I, unfortunately, am not always as faithful to my routine as I know I should be.  The commitment to exercise is not at the level that I need mine to be to ensure continued building of my strength and energy. Life gets in the way too often, and I don’t get back in step as quickly as I should. 

    I agree that the value of exercise to handle many life’s stresses is important.  I find that there are more stresses when the exercise program is not strong and regular.  The person who will exercise the personal maturity to stay in the routine that works best for them and produces the best results is by far a stronger leader.  Working with these individuals has always been a blessing and productive for those of us around them.  From where I sit, a physical workout routine is one of the things that a person with a lack of self-confidence can do that will make them more confident. Thanks for the pep talk!

    1. Sami,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article! I’ll have more ‘pep talks’ coming your way. Thank you for your perspective.


  2. I honestly never tied leadership to exercise, but I can see how it can generate confidence and show that you want to be the best you. Both are things a leader should embody. Yes, exercise also shows discipline and commitment; good traits for a leader. Eye-opening article. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Toni,

      Thank you for your perspective. Being physically fit is an important part of what it means to be a leader. Thank you for your comment!


  3. Taking the time to stay physically fit is awesome to start with.  But now that you want to mix it with leadership well that is just mind blowing.

    I know I dont work in a leadership role but just around my family I feel ever more confident each and every day that I am working towards my goal.

    Thank you for reminding me how important this journey is

    1. Dale,

      I’m glad you took some insight from the article! Physical fitness can change the way we look at our leadership roles at home as well. Thank you for your insight!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Post