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Janice Bryant Howroyd: How a business leader's health can affect the bottom line

"A leader will be observed and followed, whether people ask out loud or not," says Howroyd, who is the first black woman to build a billion dollar company. "So it makes good sense to show up in your best health every day, not just in your best outfit."
Janice Bryant Howroyd, founder and CEO of ActOne Group.
Janice Bryant Howroyd, founder and CEO of ActOne Group.Courtesy of Janice Bryant Howroyd.

The following is adapted from "Acting Up."

Every business owner should take their personal health as an offering to more than just themselves. It’s common sense that you want to be healthy for yourself and for your family, but you should be healthy for the people who are employed by you and who need you at your best every day to make sound decisions for the business.

You can often see the health of a leader exhibited through the health of the organization simply by how well the company is performing. So it’s a good personal practice, but also a smart business to keep yourself healthy. Some business owners work 16 hours a day and neglect their health, eat bad food and don’t exercise; that is actually putting the company and their employees at risk in a way that they should not be.

RELATED: 5 secrets for success from the first black woman to build a billion dollar company

There are already enough external things out there that can negatively impact any business that you shouldn’t add to those risks by not taking care of yourself. Thankfully, improving your health is manageable with a few strategies and the right mindset. In this article, I’ll share some ways I keep myself healthy and why it’s so important.

Adapt Exercises if You Travel Frequently

We all get our results from where we place our attention. You can apply this to how you approach health as well. If we’re attentive to making sure that we eat foods that give us the best energy and makes us healthier, it will deliver the results we want. This also applies to getting the rest we need. For me, sleep is like miniature death, so I have to remind myself to sleep as a responsibility, not as a pleasure. For some people, sleep is an absolute pleasure, and it’s the crown in the jewel of their day. Not me.

When it comes to working out, exercises that also get in stretching and allow me to spend time with other people are the ones I enjoy most. Walking is a good one.

Being on the road so much, I’ve had to learn to adapt exercises so they work within the conditions of my heavy travel schedule. Sometimes, that means I lay a towel on the floor and stick my ankles up under a bed and do my lifts, or I do my twists. Sometimes it means that I use bottles of water instead of weights like I do in my own gym at home.

The point is that I’ve figured out how to adapt exercise for myself when on the road. Even on the airplane, if it’s just to make sure that I’m keeping my blood circulating, I will do exercises with my feet and my arms. That can sometimes invite different kinds of conversation from people because I don’t fly private. Sometimes I’ve even had passengers join me and say, “Thank you. That was a great little workout.”

It’s all about how you approach health and how you approach others that you are going to be able to be successful with this. The bottom line is that it’s important to find a way to exercise no matter what your situation and that you can get it done and that you can create fun ways to do it for yourself. Sometimes it takes a little creativity.

Employees Will Follow Your Lead

Employees pay attention to what the leader of an organization does, including how he or she treats their own body. In particular, if you are the owner or the leader of a smaller business, you have much more visibility to your employees than say someone who leads a giant corporation. You can set a standard for how people behave and how people perform. You never have the right to put that on them, but you always have a responsibility to influence them in the best possible way.

I’ve seen companies where when the leader or the owner takes on a certain exercise regime, it becomes popularly known within the organization. What happens every time? Others will follow that lead. We’ve all seen how someone who looks great today, who maybe didn’t have that level of energy or wear that certain size of outfit two months ago gets a lot of questions about what happened and what created the change.

A leader will be observed and followed, whether people ask out loud or not. So it makes good sense to show up in your best health every day, not just in your best outfit.

For more advice on managing your personal health as a business leader, you can find "Acting Up" on Amazon.

Janice Bryant Howroyd left her hometown in 1976 armed with $900. Two years later she founded ActOne, which she grew into a multibillion-dollar global organization that now manages 2,000+ employees across more than twenty countries. She is also the bestselling author of Acting Up: Winning in Business and Life Using Down-Home Wisdom.