Are You Fit To Lead?

Yoshito Hori, president of GLOBIS University, managing partner of GLOBIS Capital Partners, shares his views from an entrepreneur's perspective.

Does your level of physical fitness affect your ability to do your job well?

From my experience, I’d have to say… It depends.

Let me explain.

In my twenties and thirties, I had zero time for physical exercise. On top of doing an MBA, I set up my own firm, worked like crazy to hit milestones, got married and fathered five children.

I had absolutely no time for anything else, including exercise.

But the great thing about being young is that you are naturally fit and healthy. You can work (and party) like crazy, without much negative impact on your health or energy levels.

Hit forty, and that all starts to change.

Suddenly, your unhealthy lifestyle catches up with you. You’ve got less energy; business travel, in particular, leaves you drained; you catch every cold going around the office; you don’t sleep so well; you’re putting on weight…

That, at least, is what happened to me.

Old habits die hard, though. Only very slowly did it dawn on me that I was actually free to change my lifestyle. The business was firmly established and growing; I had great people to help me run it. I really didn’t need to spend every waking minute obsessing about it any more.

Having been a swimmer in my school days, I decided to get back into exercise by taking part in a swimming competition for the 40–44 age bracket.

Unsurprisingly, after a two-decade gap, I performed horribly.

I realized that if I genuinely wanted to get fit, I had to set myself clear goals—exactly like an entrepreneur hitting milestones.

First, I decided to aim for the medal the organizers gave to people who took part in the swimming competition for 10 years running. Then I put myself down for the hardest race of all: the medley.

Before I knew it, I was swimming a minimum of one kilometer three times a week. And I started winning races.

I also took up snowboarding with my five kids. In the off-season, I now hike in to maintain lower body strength. Again I have a clear goal: to climb all Japan’s 100 most famous mountains at the rate of eight per year.

I’ve even imported my fitness regime into the office, making myself walk up to my ninth-floor office a couple of times a day.

The result?

I feel a great deal healthier now in my fifties than I did in my thirties. I have more energy, never seem to catch cold, and have all sorts of good ideas for the business as I’m swimming lengths!

I think this is a trend.

Recently, more and more Japanese business leaders are doing triathlons. Plus there’s no shortage of business legends who believe in the benefits of exercising.

Akio Morita, co-founder of Sony, used to play tennis first thing every morning before work. Bill Gross, the Pimco “bond king” claims to get his best investment ideas while doing yoga headstands; Jamie Dimon, the combative head of JP Morgan Chase, took up boxing after being fired from Citigroup in 1998…

Of course, being fit should not be a privilege reserved for middle-aged top management. Just because I didn’t do any exercise when I was younger, doesn’t mean my employees should have to repeat my mistakes.

A fitter, healthier workforce is a happier, more productive workforce. That’s why we indirectly support any employees who want to do sports by subsidizing a range of company clubs—tennis, golf, running, cycling, winter sports, futsal and triathlon.

Thanks to all this sporting activity, our employees aren’t just fitter—they’re also more energetic, mentally fresher, and more team-minded.

What’s your experience here?

Do you believe that your personal health/fitness and work productivity are related?

Do you think companies should encourage employees’ to be healthier, or have they got no business intruding into people’s private lives?

It’s definitely a fit subject for discussion!

Let me know your thoughts.

(Photo: Shutterstock / Luis Louro)


Mr. Yoshito Hori established GLOBIS Management School in 1992 and GLOBIS Capital Partners in 1996. In 2003, GLOBIS started its original MBA program which, in 2006, received accreditation from the Japanese Ministry of Education and gained “university” status. GLOBIS started a part-time MBA program in English in 2009 and a full-time MBA program in English in 2012.

A Harvard MBA graduate and former Sumitomo Corporation employee, Mr. Hori founded the Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) Japan Chapter in 1995 and became the first board member from Asia in charge of Asia Pacific region in 1996. He also served on the World Economic Forum (WEF)’s New Asian Leaders Executive Committee and Global Agenda Council on New Models of Leadership, as well as the Harvard Business School Alumni Board from 2005 to 2008. Currently, Mr. Hori is a board member of the Keizai Doyukai (Japan Association of Corporate Executives), and serves as co-chair of WEF’s Global Growth Companies.

In 2008, he launched the G1 Summit – a Japanese version of the WEF’s annual Davos forum. This led to the foundation of G1 Summit Institute in 2013, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

Just days after a huge earthquake struck northeast Japan in March 2011, Mr. Hori launched Project KIBOW to support the rebuilding of the disaster-affected areas. The following year Project KIBOW was incorporated as the KIBOW Foundation, which Mr. Hori serves as Representative Director.

An avid enthusiast of the Japanese game Go since age 40, Mr. Hori has been Director of the Nihon Ki-in (Japan Go Association) since June 2013.

Since October 2013, Mr. Hori has hosted a weekly TV program in Japan called Nippon Mirai Kaigi (Japan Future Conference). He has authored several books including Visionary Leaders who Create and Innovate Societies, Six Dimensions of Life, and My Personal Mission Statement.

Mr. Hori received his BS in Engineering from Kyoto University and his MBA from Harvard Business School.

He is an avid swimmer and enjoys spending time with his family, especially his five sons.

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