I’ll be honest: When I launched barre3 10 years ago, I didn’t have the slightest idea how to be a CEO. I started the company because I wanted to help people live healthier, happier lives, not because I wanted to run a company. Of course, being a CEO came with the territory, so I dove in and gave it everything I had — even if that meant fumbling my way through sometimes.
Today, 10 years into the job, I can honestly say that the biggest lessons I’ve learned about how to be a CEO are also the most surprising — and sometimes the most difficult. Here’s a look back at what my biggest learnings as a CEO over the past decade.
There is no one way to be a CEO.
Since coming into my role, I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of other CEOs, and the one thing we all have in common is impostor syndrome. There’s a stereotype of what a CEO should be, and it’s that larger-than-life figure—but that’s just one version. The truth is, there’s no one “right” way to be a CEO. Some CEOs focus more on financial growth, others focus on company culture. Some CEOs are nurturing, others are challenging. I learned along the way that the most important thing is to honor my own truth as a CEO. For me, that means nurturing the heart and culture of this company and energizing people around ideas. I’m not the CEO who’s running executive meetings every week—and that’s OK. Everybody leads differently, and it’s important to be confident in my own unique abilities versus trying to be Howard Schultz (although I do admire the guy).
It’s freeing to have clear and distinct vision, mission, and values.
At barre3, we create three-year vision statements, and we hold them up as concrete goals that we will actually accomplish. For example, our current 3-year vision is to redefine what success in fitness means through our barre3 class and by doubling the amount of people participating in barre3, and all of our efforts are trained toward this. Our mission—what we do every day to realize our vision—is to teach people to be balanced in body and empowered from within. Our core values are who we are as people—not who we’re striving to be, but who we inherently are. We have six of them, and each holds equal weight: Everybody Matters, Make it Happen, Give Generously, Humbly Confident, Love of Learning, and Committed to Real. The most important thing we do every day is to show up with these core values. It took time and dedicated work to define our vision, mission, and values, but once we did, everything else become crystal clear. Our work company wide became more purposeful—and worlds easier.
A healthy company culture requires ongoing engagement.
I’ve learned that it’s important to continuously inspire and influence our community around how we’re all aligned. We have our vision, mission, and values written down everywhere from our employee handbook to our brand book—but that’s not where they truly “live.” Instead, it’s in how we show up every day, how we teach, all the in-between moments. Being aligned around these values isn’t something to take for granted; it’s something to practice every day. A rising tide lifts all boats.
Alignment doesn’t mean that diverse perspectives aren’t invited.
One of my greatest learnings is that trust and innovation are fueled by healthy debate and a safe place that welcomes diverse points of view. My team and I sit around and fiercely debate the latest research and techniques to balance the body. Everyone comes in with ideas, and we debate them, but at the end of the day we’re grounded in our mission to teach people to be balanced in body and empowered from within. Any innovations in the barre3 class must support that mission. For example, we recently introduced Core Sliders, which build strength and balance, encouraging our clients to slow down and move mindfully. Our attention to breathwork is another great example. By leading our clients through guided breathing exercises at the end of each class, we teach them how to be present, listen to their bodies, and look within—in other words, we foster a mind-body connection that will help them feel empowered from within throughout the day.
The present moment is just as important as the future goal.
I’m a high performer. I have a vision for where I want our company to go that’s an ideal, and it’s very easy to set my sights on that ideal. But I’ve learned that it’s incredibly important for me to inspire that vision while also measuring everyone’s worth based on what we’re doing in this moment. I used to look at the gap—why haven’t we achieved X yet?—but that just creates low self-esteem and disenchantment in the company culture. When we measure actuals—highlighting in-the-moment wins, celebrating effort—we create confidence and foster strong self-esteem. We view exercise through the same lens: We’re working out not to get to a result (burning calories, building muscle) but to be safe and at home in our bodies. Instead of chasing an ideal and feeling like failures until we reach it, we’re honoring our truth in that precise moment.
My favorite thing about this list? I know it’s only the beginning. I know enough to understand that in 10 years, I’ve only begun to scratch the surface when it comes to learning how to be a CEO. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years brings.
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