12 Unexpected Core Strength Exercises for Leadership

The core of your Leadership Mindset rests on the four aspects of the human experience: the Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual aspects.

The core of your Leadership Mindset rests on the four aspects of the human experience: the Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual aspects. When one of those core aspects is weakened, your Leadership Mindset is unable to support the tactics required to accomplish your mission. Remember that day at work when your brain was fried from trying to figure out the new purchasing process, and your direct report wanted to ask for feedback on his performance? Or at home, the day your daughter needed a shoulder to cry on, and you hadn’t eaten all day? I suspect you found it difficult to deal with either of those situations effectively because some aspect of your core was weakened at the time.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that meeting your own needs is selfish or that you don’t have time care for yourself. Yet without core strength in ALL FOUR ASPECTS, you will not be able to sustain your Leadership Mindset over time. Think of it as, “What do you need to be GREAT?”

Here are a few simple exercises to develop core strength in each aspect. As you practice these, you will begin to notice how strength in one area bleeds over into strength in another…a handy thing to remember on days when one aspect is significantly weaker than the others. For now explore and experiment, and let me know what you noticed.

Physical Aspect

  1. Sleep: Ideally 6-8 hours per night regularly. When that isn’t always possible, a 20-minute power nap makes a huge difference.
  2. Hydrate: Water serves as the conduit for all of the neurological pathways in your body. It flushes waste from the system and regulates the temperature of the core. Sip water throughout the day BEFORE you feel thirsty.
  3. Breathe: Bringing oxygen deep into the cells and expelling carbon dioxide from the body strengthens the muscles and clears the mind. Consciously stop what you are doing and take 3-5 deep whole body breaths.

Mental Aspect

  1. Look to learn: Exercise your mind by exposing it to something new on a daily basis. It could be a new skill, a new language, or a new perspective.
  2. Problem solve: Focus your mind on the kinds of problems that you love to solve. They could be actual problems from work or crossword puzzles. The important thing is to give your mind a mental challenge with something that excites you.

6. Release focus: Give your mind permission to wander. Great ideas are often born when the mind is left to its own devices for a while.

Emotional Aspect

  1. Name your feelings: As you experience an emotion, name it precisely. Which is it? Annoyed, frustrated, angry or infuriated? Do you feel hurt or disrespected? The more accurately you can name your feelings, the more equipped you are to process them.
  2. Express emotions effectively: Naming an emotion is the first step to expressing it effectively. An emotion unexpressed continues to stress the body and mind. An effective expression may include allowing yourself to cry, to laugh, or to scream. It may also include asking for what you need.
  3. Recognize emotions as signals: All emotions are signals. Those emotions that do not feel good to us are signals that we have a need that is not being met. Use the emotion to identify the need.

Spiritual Aspect

  1. Connect to your purpose: Whether by divine design or random chance, depending on your belief system, each of us is uniquely suited to offer some gift of service to the world. Each of us has a specific purpose. Each day, do at least one thing that reminds you of who you truly are.
  2. Expect Abundance: Everything that happens with you, for you, through you, and to you is part of the training program that contributes to your purpose. When things don’t turn out the way you thought they should, deliberately look for the training objective.
  3. Practice forgiveness: What if NO ONE is deliberately misbehaving? Including you.

About the Author

Martha Wilson is a retired CIA Operations Officer, leadership instructor, transformational coach and the founder of Greatness In Government, a leadership and personal development firm that specializes in re-energizing mid-career government employees. Organizations that are struggling with complaints about bad leaders, discrimination, bullying and other symptoms of employee dissatisfaction hire her when they are ready for a fresh approach to leadership training. She also provides private coaching to high-potential government employees who have decided to assume responsibility for their own personal and professional development.