Sunday 23 July 2017

Karl Henry: 'It was wonderful to see two fit, slim, healthy leaders sending this photograph around the world'

Leading by example: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Leo Varadkar out for a run
Leading by example: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Leo Varadkar out for a run

We all need a leader of some kind in our lives. Be it the teacher in school, the Student Union president in college, the manager at work, the influencer on your social media or anyone else who you follow, having someone to look up to can take some of the fear out of life.

It gives us someone to roll in behind and follow to achieve a common goal. It gives us a sense of comfort and security, someone who can offer us help and leave us feeling inspired and relaxed.

Karl Henry
Karl Henry

When working towards getting healthier and fitter, it makes sense to follow those who lead a healthy life too. But unfortunately this is not always the case - all too often, those in power won't lead by example, especially when it comes to good health.

Enter Leo Varadkar and the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Last week, during Trudeau's visit to Ireland, the two world leaders were photographed going for a run in Dublin's Phoenix Park. This is a first, in my recollection: two high-profile politicians in sports gear, radiating health and positivity, not a pint of Guinness in sight.

The picture, which both men posted to their respective Twitter accounts, soon went viral online. I shared it on my own Twitter and Instagram accounts and it soon became the most liked and retweeted picture I have ever posted.

I admit that I have little interest in politics; my passion is health and helping as many people as possible to be healthy. But I was blown away by this photograph. It was wonderful to see two fit, slim, healthy leaders, with incredibly busy schedules, sending this photograph around the world and sending out a message of good health.

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

It got me thinking. This was not just an important message for an Irish politician to promote, it is an important message for anyone who leads.

Whether you have three people on your team or 3,000, it doesn't matter. If you want to improve the health of your workplace, your school, your family, your friends, then you have to be the one to take responsibility, make the changes to your own life and show others the way to go. You will be amazed at just how powerful this small step can be. Those around you will follow you, they want to follow you but they need to be shown the way.

Here is a simple example from my own experience over the past few years. Five years ago, a new client came in to see me for some training ahead of her wedding. In the process, she lost three stone and discovered a new love for health and fitness. Over the course of the following three months, 10 of that client's friends came into the gym, they started going hillwalking at the weekend, had healthy cooking classes and worked together towards the wedding goal, losing more than 17 stone between them. That all started because of a leader.

Another instance that stands out to me was a corporate client who wanted to change their workplace environment. He fronted a programme that we built to train for a 5K, and 85pc of his office then signed up for that 5K. Now, 70pc of that office still run regularly and 10 have completed further marathons. Again, that progress all comes down to one person stepping up and taking the lead.

Look at the success of Operation Transformation. Thousands of people across the country work together to get fit, healthy and lose weight by following the lead of five brave leaders.

The message this week? Lead by example and watch what happens. Follow a healthy leader and watch what happens. It's incredibly simple, but incredibly powerful.

Irish Independent

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