Fitness and leadership: is there a relationship?

Sharon L. McDowell‐Larsen (Center for Creative Leadership, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)
Leigh Kearney (Summit Leadership Solutions, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA,)
David Campbell (Center for Creative Leadership, Colorado Springs, Colorado, USA)

Journal of Managerial Psychology

ISSN: 0268-3946

Publication date: 1 June 2002


The purpose of this research was to determine how regular exercise impacted leadership scores on two multi‐rater leadership assessment instruments – the Executive Success Profile® (ESP), and the Campbell Leadership IndexTM (CLI). Since 1997, data have been collected from over 600 senior‐level executives attending Leadership at the Peak, a five‐day course at the Center for Creative Leadership. Prior to attending, the participants completed a health and physical activity questionnaire that included questions about their exercise, dietary and smoking habits and assessment data were collected from both the participants and their observers. After they arrived at the program, fitness professionals collected additional data including percent body fat, blood‐pressure and exercise routine. The health data were compared with the results of the ESP and CLI. These instruments required a self‐assessment of performance on various leadership indices along with parallel ratings by an observer group of bosses, subordinates and peers. The results indicated that the observers rated exercisers significantly higher than the non‐exercisers on many of the ESP and CLI scales. The weighted averages of all the scales for both instruments were also significantly higher for the exercisers. Further, the bosses also rated smokers lower on 14 out of 22 ESP scales compared with those who had never smoked. Overall, these data indicate that engaging in regular exercise is positively correlated with how others rated executives on various leadership indices.



Sharon L. McDowell‐Larsen, Leigh Kearney and David Campbell (2002) "Fitness and leadership: is there a relationship?", Journal of Managerial Psychology, Vol. 17 No. 4, pp. 316-324

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Copyright © 2002, MCB UP Limited

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