Leadership lessons from a SPIN class


Years ago I was invited to join a SPIN class. Spinning isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s a grueling hour+ exercise class that pushes your boundaries…if you let it. Like any other type of exercise, you get what you put in. Sure there are people that go to a class and coast…literally. But then there are those who push their own limits to achieve new mental heights and physical accomplishments.  You test yourself to see what you’re made of, what limits you can blast through.  You learn a lot about yourself and what you’re capable of achieving.

So what does leadership have in common with Spinning? What characteristics can be borrowed and shared between the two? Consider the following:

Leadership, like Spinning, requires a huge amount of energy.  Endurance and stamina are also required, and the more you have of each the better your results.  In addition, great leaders, like great cyclists need rhythm, discipline, focus, desire, and most of all integrity.

  • Rhythm is extremely important to both leadership and Spin. You need to have a regular rhythm to running your business.  A normalcy for when you host meetings, when you communicate to customers and employees, how you recognize top performers.  Spin requires a steady rhythm as well.  Consistent pedal strokes are important to maintaining your energy levels so you can finish the race.
  • Discipline is something all leaders must have. It’s easy to share the good news, but challenging times requires a greater degree of discipline to maintain a steady flow of communication.  Great leaders know that staying disciplined will help them pull through the toughest storms.  Spin too requires discipline.  It’s not easy to get up at 4:30 am to get to a 5 am Spin class.  But with that discipline comes the benefits of better endurance, stamina and energy.
  • Focus is another requirement of great leaders and cyclists.  When leading  an organization an effective leader must have the power of focus.  Jack Canfield’s book The Power of Focus offers great insight into this critical element of success.  One specific chapter, “If You’re Feeling Swamped, Get Help!”  In Spin class when you feel you can’t do more, you’re simply out of gas, you rely on those around you to help you focus and get through it.  The Boardroom is no different.  Great leaders know what NOT to focus on as much as what TO focus on while collaborating with their team to achieve that focus.
  • Desire, or will, is necessary for all great leaders.  It is also required for surviving a SPIN class.  Having a strong will, or constitution as some call it, is essential to being an effective leader.  If no desire or will exists you will struggle with all the other elements required to be successful including the ones already listed above.  A strong will drives you through difficult business circumstances, much like how your will takes over 35 minutes into a SPIN class when you’ve hit a wall and giving up becomes a possible option.  It’s your will, your desire to finish, that drives you forward.
  • Integrity, the final element that shares a connection with leadership and SPIN, is perhaps the most important.  You can do all of the above perfectly but if your intentions lack integrity they simply don’t matter.  Integrity, like character, is defined as what you do when no one else is looking.  It’s making the right decision even when that decision may come at a personal cost to you.  In SPIN class when the instructor says “add a gear”, no one but you knows how much gear you’ve added, if any.  You’re tired, exhausted, breathless…do you add gear or fake it?  Integrity is about turning the dial up when the only person that knows is you.  In business you’re faced with tough decisions, some visible and some not.  Great leaders are consistent when making decisions in public as much as in private.  They do what’s right even when no one is looking.

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