The sound body is the product of the sound mind. – George Bernard Shaw

In the wake of my 50th birthday last year, I decided that it was time, once and for all, to get back on track with a regular exercise routine. I had always enjoyed sporting activities but like many I found too many convenient excuses not to take proper care of my body. I was overweight.

The findings of a recent Gallup poll found an average of 62.8 percent of all American adults were overweight or obese in the first half of 2012 -- 36.3 percent were overweight and 26.2 percent were obese. According to Gallup, this means “millions of people are at a high risk for developing -- if they haven’t already -- costly and deadly chronic illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure.”

With leadership comes high expectations. In your business or organization certain disciplines are required to perform at the levels necessary to succeed. While you would no more neglect the leadership skills necessary to oversee your business, why would you compromise the leadership of your health?

As a leader you owe it to yourself and to your team to be at your best. This is not limited to how well you lead your organization with respect to employee relations, productivity, and profits. It means that you take ownership of your health and ensure that mentally and physically you are operating at peak performance. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Get motivated. I did not need the results of a Gallup poll to get motivated about my health. All I needed was a mirror. Tired of feeling tired and sluggish, I had to decide for myself that it was time to act. I had to decide that I wanted to be around to walk my daughters down the aisle on their wedding days and to see my future grandchildren. You have a motivating factor also -- find it.

Make a plan. My plan consists of a four-mile walk every day, a sensible balanced diet, the elimination of soda, and a reduction of my calorie intake. Now, 20 pounds lighter, I feel better, have more energy, and am more productive. I also had a thorough physical. Your path to fitness begins with a plan and should include a visit to your physician.

Involve others. A great motivator in any exercise program is the involvement of others as a means of support and encouragement. I know of many businesses who have adapted their own in-house variations of the “Biggest Loser” to promote healthy diets and exercise with incentives for participation. I am fortunate that my wife shares my commitment and together we have committed to train for a triathlon.

The demands of leadership can be challenging but not overwhelming when you take care of yourself. Get motivated, make a plan, and involve others. Are you fit to lead?

© 2012 Doug Dickerson Doug Dickerson is a nationally recognized leadership columnist and speaker. He is the author of the new book, Great Leaders Wanted, and is available to speak for your organization. Visit for more information.