You know that getting regular exercise is good for your cardiovascular health. You may even know that it elevates your mood. Bit did you know it also makes you a more effective leader?

It does, according to Chris Cornell, founder of Manhead Merch, a merchandising startup that serves the entertainment industry. Cornell is an avid surfer who has traveled the world to indulge his passion for the perfect wave. To be at his best on the board, he has to work out regularly, for strength, stamina, and balance--twice a day if he has a surf trip coming up. 

It makes his surfing better, but it also makes him a better CEO, Cornell says. Here's why:

1. It gives you better perspective.

"Working out can stop burnout or fatigue from influencing your decisions," he says. "When you're a business owner, you rarely shut off completely. Whether you are checking emails at midnight, or having calls with clients on weekends, there simply isn't much time to clear your head." 

Being that available is good for your business, but not necessarily for your judgment or creativity. "Sometimes it takes stepping away from something to get the best possible result," Cornell says. Surfing gives him the chance to clear his head and get a little precious time away from work, he says. "Working out serves as a life balance and centering point for me."

2. It ups your creativity.

"Working out while being alone with your thoughts enhances creative awareness," Cornell says. "You are more mentally sharp and more physically settled at the same time."

Out on the water, he says, he often finds himself visualizing art ideas or coming up with product ideas. "This type of decision-making is helped by working out because it makes you more relaxed and at ease," he says.

3. It helps you make wise decisions.

When you're an entrepreneur, your instinct is to never turn away a customer. But that can lead to being over-committed, or taking on projects that aren't a good fit. 

"Working out can help ensure that you always work with the right people," Cornell says. "Balancing physical activity with work provides clarity. It brings a sense of meditative calm and a heightened sense of awareness."

This is one reason why Patrick Mahoney, Manhead's vice president and general manager, usually goes on a run while listening to a band's music before the company makes the final decision to work with them. "Working with the wrong customers can be a huge pain point," Cornell says. "This lets him make these important calls with a clear head."

4. It can get you through a difficult task.

Besides vetting bands, Mahoney uses his morning run to mentally prepare for his day, Cornell reports. "It's the perfect time to work out issues and review processes and operations."

In an earlier role, Cornell says, Mahoney was faced with the need to entirely restructure his company. Going for a long run in Central Park the day before the restructuring was announced helped him work out final details and remaining questions. "The critical time that working out provides, mixed with the physical 'runner's high' is a powerful combination," Cornell says.

Published on: Nov 20, 2015
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