After an Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT), leaders always want to know two things: 1) who failed, and 2) who scored a 300?
The fastest way to get recognized (in a good way) in the Army is to score a 300.
I’ve seen it over and over: a soldier who is generally the gray man scores a 300 on the APFT and becomes an instant superstar. That soldier suddenly bubbles up to the top of the list for favorable actions – leadership positions, increased responsibility, promotions.
To score a 300 means that the soldier achieved the maximum points for each of the three events of the APFT; push-ups, sit-ups, 2-mile run.
Scoring a 300 is not a terribly difficult physical fitness goal to achieve, but it does require a measure of dedication and a more rounded physical training plan to accommodate both muscular endurance and cardiovascular ability. In most units I’ve been in, only a handful of soldiers hit a 300 on any given APFT.
Soldiers often scoff at the praise others receive simply for being in good shape. This goes for officers and enlisted alike. Just because someone scores high on the APFT or can run doesn’t mean they will be good at leadership – or anything else.
But there is evidence out there, although scant, that there are positive relationships between physical fitness and leadership, or at least, perceived leadership ability.
In my experience, good leaders tend to also be in good physical shape. That’s not to say that they are good leaders because they are in good shape. The two just seem to go together. Likewise, I’ve seen good leaders who aren’t in good shape and bad leaders who are – but I see those types less than the first.
Scoring a 300 on the APFT receives the praise that it does because it is one of the common denominators across the Army. All soldiers take the APFT, regardless of job or duty position. The standards are understood across the force and for most soldiers, you can’t really stumble into an APFT and knock out a 300 without some base level of fitness and effort.
And for those who knock the APFT as a poor measure of physical fitness, I’m not arguing with you. That’s also not the purpose of this article (see here if you really care).