I have long been passionate about fitness, health and nutrition, and have enjoyed the opportunity to connect with some of the leading experts in the space. I have interviewed CEOs of leading fitness companies, as well as prominent fitness influencers, as part of my Lessons In Leadership series in Thrive Global. Here is some of the best leadership advice shared from of a few of the people spoke to, including Chuck Runyon, the CEO of Anytime Fitness; Ben Midgley, the CEO and Founding Partner of Crunch Franchise; and Joe De Sena, CEO and founder of the Spartan Race and the Death Race:

Adam: In your experience, what are the defining qualities of an effective leader?

Chuck: Ultimately, the most important measurement of effective leadership is results. No one remembers a leader who didn’t accomplish anything. To get results, a leader must have a long telescope to spot trends and the communication skills to mobilize a team.

Joe: An effective leader is determined – they will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals and elevate the team around them.

Adam: Who are the greatest leaders you have been around and what did you learn from them?

Joe: I’m fortunate because my job allows me to meet with so many leaders of industry and military – from Richard Branson to Tim Ferris – and I walk away with something from each of them – whether it be business, personal or spiritual guidance. The best piece of advice I have received is to never trade money for time. Time is our most valuable asset.

Chuck: In her own way, my mom was a great leader. With no formal training or education, she started as a shift worker at McDonalds and worked her way up to store manager, ultimately opening two stores in the Twin City area. She was able to motivate younger workers and her best attribute was her steady work ethic. She simply showed up every day to work hard, serve her employer, help other workers do their jobs, and do her best. She led by example and never had any emotional drama in the workplace.

Adam: How can leaders and aspiring leaders take their leadership skills to the next level?

Chuck: Build your self-awareness muscles. How do you “show up” with others? What are your strengths and weaknesses? Maximize your strengths and work on improving your weaknesses. Also, it’s very important to be vulnerable with others. People appreciate honesty and they’re turned off by pretentiousness.

Ben: Put your ego last. That doesn’t mean you have to be so humble that you don’t stand up for yourself, but if you can’t check your ego, that’s going to be your biggest issue. It’s also really important to always seek to understand the other person first, in any business interaction. Consider everything that the other person says, and form your opinion after that, not before you walk into the room.

Joe: The only way for someone to take their leadership skills to the next level is to learn from their mistakes and the guidance of others. Early on in my life, I was told to create a personal board of directors that I could turn to for advice and I have built a network of mentors that have helped guide me to where I am today.

Adam: What are your three best tips applicable to entrepreneurs, executives and civic leaders?

Ben: Be humble, be driven, be fair.

Adam: What is the best advice you have on building, managing and leading teams?

Chuck: We use a system that we call C.A.T.T. — Communication. Alignment. Trust. Talent. This should be a primary focus for all leaders. Each of the C.A.T.T. components are essential to building and leading an engaged, purpose-driven workforce. Think about it. Most problems can be traced back to one of the following: 1) Breakdown in communication 2) Misaligned on strategy 3) Team doesn’t trust each other 4) Team doesn’t have the talent to execute.

Joe: It’s important to build a team of people whose skills complement one another. I learn from everyone around me at all levels, and it’s important to put the right group of people together who can absorb knowledge from one another and work together to carry out a shared vision.

Adam: What is the single best piece of advice you have ever received?

Ben: In terms of guiding principles, Aristotle’s virtues to live by are tough to beat. I even have these on our wall at home for our kids to see and read. Tom Morris summarized them like this: Courage – a commitment to do what’s right despite the threat of danger. Temperance – a rational moderation and proper self-restraint in our pleasures. Liberality – a freedom of giving to others what can be of help to them. Magnificence – a capacity for acting on a grand scale Pride – a true sense of honor and worthiness. Good temper – an inner calm manifested by appropriate outward behavior. Friendliness – the demeanor of treating others convivially and sociably. Truthfulness – a strong disposition toward honesty in all things Wittiness – the ability to see and express humor appropriately Justice – the fundamental disposition of treating others well and fairly Adam: What is one thing everyone should be doing to pay it forward?

Adam: What are your hobbies and how have they impacted your development as a leader?

Chuck: My favorite hobby is coaching my kids’ sports teams. It brings me back to individualized teaching, based on the physical maturity and the skills of each player. As a coach and as a leader in the office, I work hard to make sure I’m more positive than negative (very important in youth sports) and I try to infuse fun into our practices.

Joe: As an adventure racer, I’ve been in situations that have pushed me beyond my breaking point and allowed my body and mind to perform tasks that I never thought possible – and that has driven my development as a leader. Approaching all of life’s obstacles knowing that they can be overcome with determination and the right approach – and encouraging others to do the same – allows individuals to move to the next level.

The interviews can be found in full at:




Adam Mendler