The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association is the fitness industry's only global trade association representing over 10,000 for profit health and fitness facilities and over 600 supplier companies in 75 countries.



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6 Actions Health Club Leaders Take to Develop Emerging Leaders

Identifying and nurturing emerging leaders continues to be a challenge in our industry.  

It’s also one ofif not the most importantchallenges we face. In his IHRSA 2016 session, “Extraordinary Leaders: Develop a High-Performance Team,” Eddie Tock of REX Roundtables said, “research shows that improving leadership behavior has more impact on your company performance than any other investment.”

So, in looking at the leadership traits of many of our industry’s leaders, I’ve distilled those traits into six common actions leaders use to foster leadership in both their own organizations and throughout the industry.

To develop the next generation of industry leaders, current club leaders...  

#1. Lead by Example 

Most everyone replied that leading by example is by far the most important trait. Basically, the leadership traits you want to see in your club staff are the same ones they want to see in you every single day. Any form of leader should be professional, ethical, communicative, supportive, display a high work ethic, and be willing to share knowledge and experiences.  

Jim Worthington, owner and president of Newtown Athletic Club, who is known for “walking the talk” has said that being a leader in the industry has given him the chance to mentor employees as well as colleagues at other clubs.

#2. Are in Perpetual Learning Mode  

According to Leadership Hospitality, it is important for leaders to ‘be visible about their own need to learn. Great leaders are never more powerful than when they are shown to be in a learning mode.’

Our industry’s leaders are some of the best at sharing the fact that they are information and education-hungry. Allison Flatley, CEO of Corporate Fitness Works, has shared that she loves learning growth strategy from successful entrepreneurs and training techniques from experienced personal trainers. And Janine Williams, vice president of human resources at Leisure Sports, said that the most important leadership trait is “to ensure that you continue to expand the depth and breadth of your knowledge; not only in the health club industry but in business and financial acumen as well.”

#3. Cross-train to Develop Across Skills or Knowledge Gaps  

Our industry already understands the value of cross-training to build endurance, flexibility, and skill. The same applies for leadership learning as candidates that are rotated through various jobs gain first-hand experience and new expertise in many different roles. They also develop a broader vision of your club and exposure to staff dynamics and member concerns.

In his IHRSA 2016 presentation, "Developing NextGen Leaders," Brent Gallagher discusses the practical steps involved in establishing a team of next-generation leaders, including the need to train across areas to create a healthy leadership pipeline.

#4. Generously Share Knowledge

Of course, leaders are expected to coach and develop their people. Our industry’s leaders have elevated the “sharing of knowledge”both inside their clubs and with the entire industry—into an art-form, as evidenced by the selection of information shared by leaders in webinars and at industry events.

When speaking on industry leadership, Scott Gillespie, owner of Saco Sport & Fitness said, “I love seeing the incredible evolution in our industry due to the many bright and giving leaders who are willing to share their best practices, allowing us all to build on their thoughts and experiences. In a world of proprietary this and protected that, our industry is a rare example of one where people come together to help each other become better.”

Jim Worthington added that what he appreciates most about being an industry leader is that he is able to network with global thought leaders who inspire and motivate him “to push the envelope of excellence in our field even further.”

And Joe Cirulli, president and owner of Gainesville Health & Fitness, added that “the opportunity to share experiences with both other leaders as well as newcomers” is the most fulfilling part of being a leader in the fitness industry.

#5. Reinforce Corporate and Industry Culture

In his IHRSA 2016 session on “Visionary Leadership: Driving Organizational Success,” Luke Carlson, CEO of Discover Strength said, “the key to visionary leadership is not just if the leader knows where the company is heading, but if they can inspire a shared vision throughout the entire company.”

Carlson added, “a true visionary leader inspires and educates their staff about the company’s values and goals. The litmus test for whether or not a leader is a visionary leader is if you can walk into that club and ask anyone where the company is going in ten years, what their core values and differentiators are, and have everyone not only be able to answer those questions but give the same answers.”

#6. Turn Problems into Opportunities

Our industry’s leaders understand that everyday problems often become opportunities for real world learning and teaching opportunities.

Joe Cirulli said the most important piece of advice he would give his younger self is to “meet every challenge you face with the belief that you will not only make it through, but that the lessons you learn will help you to be smarter, and better prepared the next time you encounter a challenge.” Mike Alpert, president and CEO of the Claremont Club, added that “nothing meaningful or great comes without failure.”

So, are you fostering a culture of leadership development in your club? If so, please contact us. We’d love to hear about what you’re doing now to develop and nurture the people around you.

Additional resources: 

From IHRSA 2016: 

Reader Comments (2)

Change isn’t easy and uncertainty is uncomfortable. Your organization’s strategic plan is the guide for leading your organization in a dynamic environment.
February 8, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarg Online
Great leaders always have a strong “pulse” on business performance and those people who are the performance champions. Not only do they review the numbers and measure performance ROI, they are active in acknowledging hard work and efforts (no matter the result).
February 14, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMarg Online

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