The First Leg of Personal Stewardship: Physical

To keep the body in good health is a duty …
otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.”

– Buddha

When, in the midst of executive coaching, I eventually address the behavior of “physical stewardship,” most leaders light up. At last! Of all the behaviors of successful leaders, this is one they can immediately grasp! On some level, each of us can.


This is the stuff thrown at us every day. In grocery store checkout lines, on TV news shows, and even on fast food menus, we are bombarded with messages about improving our health, watching our weight, counting calories, brightening our smiles, and toning our abs. This is the one leadership behavior that is visually obvious: if you work out, if you eat properly, people can tell. Making a favorable impression, though, is the least of the reasons to take care of one’s physical body.

As a behavior, “personal stewardship” rests on three legs, mental, spiritual, and body. Of the three, “body” is the most touted and most popular – and not just among executives. Celebrities, athletes, and even Presidents of the United States can be seen on the evening news, working out or discussing their nutrition choices.


Physical fitness, of course, can be easily neglected. Despite study after study showing the benefits of physical health and nutrition, we still see people – potential leaders — neglecting their own health. And not just in obvious ways like overindulging, but in less obvious ways, like failing to follow doctors’ orders.

How you approach the physical aspect of personal stewardship is up to you. The ties between a healthy body and effective leadership are ongoing. A manager who isn’t physically healthy – for whatever reason – often isn’t present or able to manage her responsibilities. A manager who doesn’t tend to his physical body finds it hard to be a role model and to attract followers. “Personal stewardship” is a choice, but it’s a highly personal choice. It needn’t be public, and it needn’t be all-consuming. Health consciousness is for you – not for anyone else.

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