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Why successful CEOs spend so much time on their hobbies

Why successful CEOs spend so much time on their hobbies

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When David Solomon was appointed CEO of Goldman Sachs earlier this year, the media didn’t focus all of their attention on his largely successful career as an investment banker – they also shed the spotlight on one of his unexpected hobbies.

While Solomon might be known around the boardroom table for calling the shots, the 56 year old is also recognised by his stage name: DJ D-Sol.

Solomon’s biography on Spotify, which has more than 550,000 monthly listeners, reads as follows: “His personal mantra is to never lose sight of what you are passionate about.”

But when it comes to CEOs pursuing interesting hobbies outside of their day jobs, Solomon is not alone. We spoke with a number of high-profile CEOs about their hobbies, if they took them seriously and whether or not it gives them a competitive advantage as a leader.

Despite their hectic diaries, we found the vast majority take time away from the office to pursue other interests – the general consensus being that their hobbies make it easier to cope with the ever-increasing demands of their position, both in their public and private lives. 

Here’s some of the common themes that emerged:

They provide a much-needed distraction.

 

Many CEOs said that the complexity of their positions has increased significantly, leaving them with very little time outside of work. And when they do have spare time on their hands, their natural inclination is to think about work. 

Unsurprisingly, this tendency has a negative impact on their performance: excessive stress undermines strategic thinking, leads to increased aggression and a reduction in the ability to adopt positive leadership behaviour. 

Instead, research suggests that hobbies can help people to recover from stress more effectively. 

It’s a valuable lesson in humility.

 

High-ranking leaders occasionally need a reminder in the art of humility. After all, you might be good at what you do, but you can’t be good at everything. CEOs that possess the ability to listen to other people’s ideas and accept that their way isn’t always the right way can lead to greater employee engagement, as well as an improvement in company performance. That’s why many of the CEOs we spoke with emphasised the importance of keeping their feet on the ground.

It helps them form connections with their employees.

 

Many CEOs we spoke with cited their hobbies as a valuable pathway to creating more genuine connections with their employees. Connecting and communicating with people at all levels within an organisation is a great opportunity to gather honest comments and opinions. 

Leaders have a duty to know what's going on in their organisations and the narratives that shape the culture of their business. 
Interestingly, Dennis Muilenburg of Boeing and Arne Sorenson of Marriott practice their favorite sports with teams of employees.

It reinforces their sense of identity.

 

Many successful leaders developed their leadership identity through their story: how they became who they are. For the vast majority of executives we spoke with, their hobbies went back to their university or high school days, and often provide a powerful sense of personal identity.

Holding on to this sense of identity, and using it as a platform to establish core values, helps leaders stay balanced and keep their feet on the ground.

It can make you a better leader.

 

More often than not, we pick up valuable life skills through activities that have very little to do with the workplace. 

Being an effective leader takes more than taking a leadership workshop or course; leadership skills can be acquired through a range of experiences.

Wondering how you could find room for hobbies in your schedule? 

 

A recent article from Harvard Business Review found that CEOs spend an average of about 2.1 hours a day relaxing, ranging from simple relaxation to pursuing their hobbies. These hours are not consecutive. The beauty of out of office hobbies lies in the fact that, in the words of a CEO we spoke with: "This will require you to find the time to do it.”

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