Following the Leader


What exactly is a leader?

For Charlie Sims, the owner of CrossFit Regeneration, there were two definitions: A leader is one who has a follower. Or, a leader is one who takes the initiative for the benefit of another.

At his Box in Louisville, Kentucky, Sims said his role as a leader is to create unity, not to micromanage. “I know that my Coaches each have unique strengths, perspectives and abilities,” he said. “It gives me a lot of confidence in our gym, because I know with this much diversity, our members can have just a wealth of perspective to pull from.”

The co-owners of CrossFit Orlando also spoke of their Coaches when asked about leadership. “As it relates to a Box specifically, I would say it’s somebody who … has a presence in the Box and is able to handle a class,” said Gabe Haas, one of the co-owners of the gym.

But for Val Wright, a leadership expert, leaders are “thoughtfully ruthless,” which is also the title of her latest book. “A leader creates rapid growth everywhere they go by being laser-focused and intentional about how they spend their time, how they boost and maintain their energy, and how they maximize their resources,” she explained.

And not every person, or Coach, is cut out to be a leader. Wright explained just like the best salesperson may not be the best person to lead the sales team, that’s the same when it comes to a Box’s top athlete.

When looking to develop leaders, Wright offered up three steps. First, determine where you want your business to be in two years. From there, draw up what kind of team — skills, experiences, etc. — you’ll need to run that business. Finally, look at your current team. Think about who might fit the bill, or who could be developed to reach what you need.

In terms of developing your own leadership, Sims said he will often find a leader he looks up to and would like to emulate. Then he will ask them questions about how they function and who they are, learning from their experiences. “It takes initiative, it takes courage and humility,” he said. “You can identify the kind of leader you want to be when you see them, and that person has already learned a lot of those hard lessons, and if I can grasp a little bit of that without having to go through the pain that they went through — I’m sure that’s worth it.”

Luciano Sperduto, a co-owner of CrossFit Orlando, explained he’ll pick up at least two or three leadership books a year. Haas said he’ll do the same, as well as research articles put out by Boxes like CrossFit New England or resources from companies like 321GoProject.

To Wright, the best way an Affiliate can grow as a leader is to look at your surrounding staff. “Create an enviable inner circle of advisers who energize and inspire you,” she said.

Also, be brilliant at demonstrating your brilliance. She said you can do this by asking two questions:

First, “Does your virtual you reflect the real you? Google your name and your Box name. Do the results represent what you have achieved and what you want the world to know about you and your business?” explained Wright.

Second, “Are you appropriately shameless about showcasing your work achievements to grow your business?” she said. “Understand what is holding you back so you can do more.”

Heather is the editor for Box Pro Magazine. Contact her at