Three hobbies the most stressed executives in the world swear by
It’s difficult to imagine what it’s like to be in the shoes of Executive Chairman of Aston Martin, Lawrence Stroll. The billionaire backing behind the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula 1 Team, he must juggle the management of a global luxury car manufacturer as well as the most cut-throat motorsports competition in history. Every race risks not only the life of his son behind the wheel, but the financial atom bomb of a crash that can cost the team upwards of £300,000 and an explanation to shareholders.
These pressures surely crowd his mind. Of course, stress can be a positive force, focusing attention, rekindling determination, and energizing action. It can help us make tough decisions and hold fast. But it can also hinder us. The question is what to do about it when it does.
Professor James R. Bailey of Leadership Development at George Washington University says that after sleep and exercise, pursuing a hobby is the most common type of stress-reduction activity for senior executives in the face of relentless tension. Past research has shown that spikes of cortisol in the blood caused by stress can be reduced by spending just 20 minutes a day outside.
For most executives, the high-octane thrills of a Grand Prix weekend may not be the peaceful retreat from the boardroom they need. But for Stroll, Formula 1 has been a happy marriage between the market-savvy acquisitions he’s built his success on and a lifelong appreciation of motorsports.
The Canadian billionaire is best known for having masterminded Michael Kors’ hugely successful IPO in 2011. The bulk of Stroll’s fortune comes from selling his shares in the American fashion brand; he sold the last of his stake in 2014. Four years later, he led a group of investors to purchase the Racing Point Force India F1 team for £90 million – plus assumption of £15 million of debt to loans providers and suppliers – and signed son Lance for the following season.
His lifelong enthusiasm for motorsports buoyed him to the public eye during the sensational buy-out of Aston Martin, and the hotly anticipated rebrand of its F1 team, luring world champion Sebastian Vettel as the second driver. At home, Stroll is surrounded by his collection of vintage Ferraris, one which he nabbed for a record-breaking 27.5 million USD in 2013.
In the Netflix series, Drive to Survive, Stroll describes his stake in Formula 1 as a “tremendous opportunity in something that I have a lot of passion for.”
Some executives are more keen to distance themselves from the sports that have made their fortune. Take Roman Abramovich, for example. The famous owner of recent Premier League champions, Chelsea Football Club, Abramovich’s favourite past-time is far from the football pitches that have punted him into the public eye. An avid skier, rumour has it that he loves the sport so much that he even once tried to buy the entire Eastern France resort of Courchevel, where he can be found rubbing elbows with fellow Russian industry scions at après-ski drinks.
While managing a global industrial empire, Abramovich has never strayed too far from his roots. Alongside, he owns stakes in Russian steel giant Evraz, Norilsk Nickel and has spent 2.5 billion USD in the Chukotka region where he worked as governor and chairman of the local Duma from 2001 to 2013.
Though not Russian himself, the managing partner at Kronospan, Peter Kaindl can be found staking out the 2.5 million acres of Kulu Safari, one of the oldest snow sheep and kamchatka brown bear outfitters in Russia. Perhaps his hobby was picked up while scouting for new business opportunities for one of the largest wood-product manufacturers in Eastern Europe. The fourth-generation heir to the Kaindl family lumber fortune has worked hard to expand the group’s small Austrian and Western European base of his father’s tenure into a billion-euro international conglomerate with manufacturing centers across Europe, North America, and China.
When he isn’t tracking snow sheep, Peter Kaindl has created hundreds of jobs in Belarus and other less economically developed European countries over the course of a decade, harnessing these economies’ raw materials and highly qualified workers, in turn helping to boost local communities’ economic stability in spite of their political obstacles.
The corporate culture of Western high-powered boardrooms has a reputation of tough grit and long hours. Executives may worry that taking beekeeping courses or putting time aside for weekly mountain hikes might be perceived as signs of weakness.
These three leaders of their industries make clear that activities of renewal have helped them grow their empires and become better businessmen along the way. We should champion the strength that comes from seeking pleasure in business – in other words, the power to be gained from our pastimes.