“Leadership” by Sara Kooperman, CEO, SCW Fitness

sarah kooperman

Leadership by Sara Kooperman

Over and over again, I have witnessed my staff self-appointing a leader when performing tasks which may be simple or complex.  A leader seems to rise out of all situations.  Even when stuffing envelopes, coordinating schedules, laying down steps for a workout, inventorying clothes … just about any task big or small requires a leader.

Leadership is not a right, leadership is an honor.  Leadership is earned. It is earned in the kindness of a small gesture, it is earned in the succumbing to the interests of another, it is earned in the strength of boldly addressing adversity and it can even be earned in the showing of weakness.

I have not ever fully examined what makes one person a leader and one person a follower.  When I was young, leadership had always meant power.  Maybe this is my upbringing.  “Do what I say.” “Listen to me.” “When I say jump, ask how high.”  Yet, as I grew up and started SCW Fitness Education, my definition of leadership slowly evolved.

I remember another important story in my growth as a business person.  This is about my now twenty-four year old when he was only seven.  I took Sam (the oldest son of my four boys) with me to one of the MANIA conventions, Florida MANIA.  He never really understood what I did.  He had never come to a convention before.  We walked into registration where hundreds of people stood in line.  He saw me greet the registration staff, and smile and chat with the attendees. He was awestruck.

I’ll never forget how he looked up at me and said “Wow, mom.  All these people work for you.”  And I looked down at him, smiled and without missing a beat, I said, “No, Sammy. I work for all these people.”  That is leadership.  Leadership is not power; leadership is responsibility.

Now this may sound like the poor imitation of a line from a Spiderman movie, but it clearly defines for me the complex concept of leadership.

To me leadership is speaking 70 different languages and only then being able to communicate with each and every staff member.  Leadership is listening to complaints and criticisms without prejudice, and taking those criticisms like a man (I don’t want to be sexist, I just am turning a phrase.)  Leadership is always seeing two sides of a coin, tossing it and making tough choices. Leadership is balance during the most unstable of times.

Being able to:

Criticize with kindness

Correct with discretion

Admit mistakes

Forgive yourself

Retain your focus

Change midstream

Set direction

Readjust priorities

Leadership is setting your own goals, in your own style.

I think what all this boils down to is leadership is taking control.  This means taking chances, and taking chances most definitely means making mistakes. Leadership is the person who takes the risk to be wrong. Whether it is setting the steps up incorrectly, hitting “reply all” to an email that never should have been sent, teaching your first really horrible pilates class, or firing the best employee that you ever had.  Leadership is taking a chance and risking mistakes.

For women this is sometimes a harder task.  Women tend to be “pleasers” caring more for the feelings and thoughts of others than for themselves, wanting to make everyone get along, wanting everything to be smooth and comfortable.  Men tend to have the ability to drive their desires into action.  Take control and tell others what to do.  Women ask.  Men tell.  Yet, both men and women are leaders, and we can learn from each other.

Once In a meeting with a prominent male fitness industry leader, I was complaining about a situation in my office.  The man I was speaking with told me to simply, “take control” and do what had to be done.  I stated that I had to “ask my staff what needed to be done.” “Why” he inquired.  I stated, “Because if I listen to my staff, I get 150% out of them, otherwise I’m stuck with 80-90%.” He smiled in response.

Now there was no great wisdom in my statement, and no great change of management style to be learned.  It was just simple.  Different approaches work for different people.  I am sure that he gets 150% from his staff.  Yet, I could learn from his style, and he could learn from mine.

The binding factor in our relationship was the willingness to take a risk.  We both took risks, day in and day out.  We made decisions over and over and over again, starting projects, ending projects, and running projects.

If you want to be a leader, take risks.  If you want to be a better leader, don’t demand respect, instead earn it.  Ask advice, ask more advice, and then reconfirm advice, then without hesitation take a risk, because the responsibility is worth the rewards.


SCW Fitness Education: We’re a Family.

SCW is an internationally recognized education body that provides hands-on certifications and continuing education courses and conventions to fitness professionals in multiple disciplines nationwide. For the past 28 years, since 1987, Personal Trainers, Group Exercise Instructors, Small Group Training Leaders, Aquatic Exercise Professionals, Cycling Teachers, Mind-Body Experts, Sport Specific Training Educators and many more get certified through SCW. This outstanding Family of Leaders also supports Managers, Directors and Owners of clubs and facilities nationwide with our business and management tracks. As the largest Conference Leader and Continuing Education Provider in the world, MANIA® offers eight Professional Training Conventions in Philadelphia, California, Florida, Atlanta, Dallas, DC, Midwest (Chicago), and Boston serving over 10,000 health and wellness professionals and reaching over 90,000 virtually.


About GGFA

The Gold's Gym Franchisee Association is the independent voice of the Gold's Gym franchisees.
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