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The Iron CEO

You most likely know the type – high ranking corporate officer, high achieving, tense and busy. However, it is not the Iron fist style of management we are referring to, but rather their ability to inspire by the example of participating in sporting events that require great feats of physical endurance and stamina. This could take the shape of running a marathon, skydiving or participating in the brutal Ironman challenge- a long-distance triathlon which requires one to compete in a 3.86 km swim, a 180.25 km bicycle stretch and a 42.20 km marathon race.
Probably the most obvious example of an Iron CEO is the Virgin Group CEO, Richard Branson who likes to push the envelope with things like going halfway across the world in a hot air balloon or executing dangerous barrel rolls in a vintage aircraft. Back in 1986, he had made the record fastest crossing of the Atlantic Ocean on his boat the Virgin Atlantic Challenger II.
Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, used to sail in extremely dangerous regattas, with death cases on record. High ranking corporate executives and company founders often have this propensity to challenge themselves outside their comfort zone, a trend that transcends both nationalities and professions.
Take the case of an Italian accountant Stefano Passarello, who not only set up a global accountancy company, People and Projects in Hong Kong but also made it a habit to win racing competitions. He has to his credit three victory medals in the Hong Kong Athletics Association category of the well-known Standard Chartered Bank Marathon. His last race was only days ago, where he again secured a credible third position.
What is it that makes these extremely successful people put themselves through so much physical exertion and even danger? Why risk getting injured or even death? Perhaps it is the need to overcome difficult challenges, something that many entrepreneurs continuously crave. Or is it to test their own physical limits? It is entirely possible that this their way of showing to those around them that the way to the top is to seek extreme challenges and stepping out of one’s comfort zone. For somebody like Branson it is the fact that working all the time stifles creativity. Getting out in nature and chasing an adrenaline surge also boosts creativity allowing to return to work with renewed vigour.

If you take a closer look at the corporate world, you will see a growing trend of high-ranking executives-both male and female going out there to cycle, hike or run marathons. The relatively sedentary modern work environment has not dulled our need to be active or seek challenges that test us outside of the professional realm. That need is even more pronounced for CEO’s and executives pushing them to conquer both the corporate and physical worlds.