Three words seldom spoken about in leadership studies, conferences, and blogs are:
I’d like to address each one and briefly demonstrate its importance and essential requirements to biblical servant leadership. In my last blog, I addressed Followers. In Part 2, I would like to speak to Fitness.
Eugene Habecker, who served for thirty-five years in presidential/CEO leadership roles in academic institutions, commits an entire chapter to what he calls “fitness renewal.” His premise is that fitness renewal—especially fitness and diet—is essential to effective leadership. He writes, fitness renewal “has everything to do with how leaders keep up their level of energy and the focus they need to bring to their leadership tasks.” (108)
His summary of Leviticus 23:3 (CEV) provides three activities for a framework supportive of fitness renewal. He lists them as:
- “rest” or cessation from work, which includes Sabbath rest,
- “come together” with friends, family and loved ones, and
- “worship”… communities of worship that have as their focus worship of the transcendent God.” (113, 114)
He does recognize two “daily self-management disciplines,” which are to: 1) strive for achieving 9-10,000 steps or their equivalents and 2) record what is eaten. (121)
Habecker lays out a credible argument and framework for fitness in leadership.
I have a similar framework built upon Jesus’ teaching to his followers where He instructed them to “love the Lord your God with all of your heart, all of your soul, all of your mind, and all of your strength…and your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:30, 31)
- Heart Care – The heart is the center of our emotions, intuition, discernment, and relationships. Leaders must care for their hearts to maintain soft, pliable, compassionate, and loving hearts. Wounds and scars can form a calloused and “thick-skinned” persona without proper care. We are to care for our hearts because “from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov. 4:23; ESV) Forgiveness, which we will discuss in the next blog, is an exercise to keep our hearts soft and compassionate.
- Soul Care – Our soul is our spirit with which we commune with God and the Holy Spirit. Leadership void of spiritual vitality can only result in self-service. To care for the leader’s spirit is to practice daily spiritual exercises that till and fertilize communion, gifts, and fruit of the Holy Spirit. Paul taught his protégé, Timothy, “workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making fit for both today and forever.” (1 Tim. 4:8; MSG)
- Mind Care – The leader’s mind is the source of innovation, problem solving, and strategic thinking to name a few. To get caught in the endless loops of “how we have always done things” or “it works, why break it?” keep the leader from visionary and courageous decisions. Leaders must exercise their minds like they do their spirits and bodies. To strengthen your mind, grow in your specialty or discipline, play board games, read a bound, ink-on-paper book, write something every day, listen to podcasts of interest—not just for work—and/or memorize/familiarize Scripture. If you need some guardrails in which to train your mind, read Philippians 4:8.
- Body Care – “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.” (1 Cor. 6:19) Enough said. If you trust your body truly is the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” you would care what you put in it, on it, if it was fit to function as needed, and where you took it. The disciplines of diet, physical exercise, rest, simple lifestyle, and establishing a healthy pace can aid you in temple care.
- Love of Neighbors and Friends – Leadership is not a solo sport. Leadership is service to the mission in the context of followers. Jesus taught us that our neighbor is anyone in need (Luke 10:25-37), and his disciples are his friends. (John 15:13-15) Neighbors strengthen the love of God within us, and friends bring laughter, offer perspective, spiritual support, and a place for unguarded relationships. My first memory verse was, “A friend loveth at all times.” (Prov. 17:17) One of the greatest workouts to strengthen love is to love a friend who has betrayed or wounded you.
- How would you describe your framework for fitness in leadership?
- Compare your framework with that of Habecker and mine. What would you add or edit in your framework?
- What activities/disciplines are habits in your life that contribute to your leadership fitness?
- How do you keep yourself accountable to your framework of fitness on a daily basis?
We will discuss the third word few talk about in leadership, Forgiveness, in our next blog.
 I am grateful to Dr. Gene Habecker who in his book, The Softer Side of Leadership: Essential Soft Skills That Transform Leaders and the People They Lead (Deep River Books, 2018), has included these important concepts in his insights on leadership.