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Marathon runners make better CEOs. Confirmed by a study

Marathon runners make better CEOs. Confirmed by a study

Leading a business successfully is like running a marathon: both require dedication, commitment, ethics, and strategy. But does being a marathon runner make you a better leader?

Yes. At least this is confirmed by the research published in the Scientific Network for Social Research (link at the end), which finds "A positive relationship between CEO aptitude and company value."

The research: CEO’s of 1,500 companies

Using data on the CEOs of 1,500 companies between 2001 and 2011, they determined which of these CEOs had completed a marathon in any given year and combined these results with the market value of each company relative to its book value from that same period of weather.

The study found that companies run by CEO’s marathon runners were 5% more valuable than those who did not. Even taking into account CEOs of strong and effective governance, marathon runners who led companies outperformed.

The researchers wanted to show that marathon runners are better executives because of their increased fitness as CEOs, and not because marathon runners, as a group, share similar pre-existing characteristics. For it, studied groups of CEOs who were particularly prone to experiencing high levels of stress, as they are:

  • Older CEOs (over 55),
  • CEO's at risk of burnout syndrome (1)
  • CEO's with a high workload (defined by the study as those who sit on various boards of directors).

In each of these "high risk" groups, companies led by a broker CEO were 8-10% more valuable. This, of course, does not completely rule out that CEO's who run marathon share personality traits that make them good at their job, but the study authors are completely convinced that they are correct and that is not why.

A fantastic example of this is that of Bárbara Navarro, who holds the position of Director of the Area "Public Policy and Government Relations" from Google in Spain, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Russia, Asia and Australia. He has run the most popular marathons in the most important cities such as Tokyo, Chigaco and New York, among others.

Marathon against stress

“Exercise moderates stress and increases cognitive performance. And this should be eye-opening for CEOs facing high demands and responsibilities. ", concludes the study. And it goes even a little further.

According to the authors, the fitness level of a CEO is also a relevant piece of information that provides interesting data when doing business with other companies and investors. In other words, the next time you have to decide whether or not to invest in a project, make sure you have run a marathon in the last year.

Source: Social Science Research Network

(1) Burnout syndrome: a condition that would consist of a response to the prolonged presence of stress in the body (due to emotional and interpersonal stressors that occur at work), and would include chronic fatigue, inefficiency, and denial of what happened.

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