The Secret of Great Leaders
By Phil Kaplan

Written for fitness professionals striving for excellence.

In many interviews people have asked "the secret of my success." It really is simple.

I wrote this article to share the value of a trait that is so fundamental, yet all too often ignored. A trait that can serve as a pedestal upon which the greatest fitness careers in history can be built. Before I explain the trait, let me share eight words that we've all been exposed to in some form or another.

"It's quick, it's easy, it works like magic."

Those words have traveled through my brain more times than I could even attempt to count. They plague me when I go to sleep at night, they pour in through the speakers of my car radio as I drive, and they permeate the pages of every magazine I flip through. As if that isn't enough, I am continuously besieged by swarms of multi-level marketers trying to get me to buy into their product offerings as a distributor, and the promise always equates to "quick, easy, magic."

We all have those little voices that emerge from a place where only we can hear them. There is the voice of reason, and then there is the voice of temptation, and they are at odds with each other. The voice of temptation tells me how easy it would be to get out there on TV and sell a nonsensical product claiming no effort was required and results would be miraculous. Thankfully, in my mind, the voice of reason beats the daylights out of the other little voice. I wish that were true for everyone. I've learned. It isn't.

There is that one trait I'm especially proud of, one that I feel has been the cornerstone, the foundation of my entire career. It is, in fact, the "secret" of my success. I'm going to urge every fitness professional to grow through the recognition and development of this trait. It's known as integrity.

In the past few years, in the role of consumer advocate, I've ordered almost every product and program on the market. I have been appalled by offerings ranging from those promising "personal training success" to those promising great abs in minutes. There are in fact a handful of high quality programs and products, but they're swallowed up in a sea of fraud and deception which leaves far too many consumers digging in the wrong dirt attempting to find solutions.

We see infomercial product sellers generate $100 million in sales . . . using exaggerated "science." We see addictive stimulants sold as miracle fat burners, and while some are injured and others die, the product sellers appear to prosper. It appears, based on the state of our industry, that integrity may have to be shoved aside in order to generate the big bucks. Appearances can be deceiving. The FTC is stepping up it's battle against fraudulent claims. The Electronic Ab Stimulator sellers have run into a huge FTC stop sign. Multi-million dollar supplement sellers are finding themselves battling lawyers for selling potentially hazardous ephedrine products as safe. Wrongful injury cases are springing up involving personal trainers who did not display any legally defensible measure of competence. The voice of reason is gaining power.

There are two compliments I'm rewarded with frequently. One is, "Phil, you make so much sense." It still amuses me that people feel inclined to compliment me for making sense. After all, if I am looked at as an expert, as an educator, as a presenter, isn't "making sense" my job? The fact that I hear this odd compliment so frequently simply illustrates the frustration stimulated by utter confusion.

People are so used to hearing over- the-top claims, they're so conditioned to fail with a fitness attempt and blame themselves for the failure, they're actually shocked when somebody gives them back their sense of reason and presents the fitness solution in an understandable format.

The second compliment has to do with ethics. I've often been introduced on speaking platforms and radio programs as someone who has maintained the highest of ethics. Again, I'm flattered, but somewhat embarrassed by the compliment. I don't believe I'm doing anything all that special. I'm simply staying connected with what I know to be the honest delivery of factual information.

I've seen the words of some of my peers, some people I highly respect, presented in articles and books written by others without a hint of giving credit where credit is due. To date I've found my own writings and programs poorly replicated by unscrupulous operators who have attempted to cash in on what they believed my strength was. They believed my strength lied in marketing and in selling programs. That is not my strength at all. My strength is something that cannot be stolen or borrowed, something far more powerful than marketing skills. My strength is integrity, and I urge you to make it yours as well.

What is integrity? Integrity is doing the right thing, even when it's difficult. Integrity is standing up for what you believe in. Integrity asks you to speak your mind and feelings, even if it's uncomfortable to do so. Integrity in our field requires a commitment to the unshakable belief that "quick easy magic" doesn't exist, and that in order to achieve a positive physical change, there must be a concern for activity and supportive eating.

As long as those with questionable morals continue to challenge and tempt us with fraudulent offerings, we maintain an uphill climb in order to help true fitness professionals muster the widespread respect that we know we deserve. Uphill climbs don't scare those who are committed to pursuance of truth. In fact, we thrive on challenges and relish in the ability to overcome them. I do not pretend to be any great philosopher nor am I expecting any of my words to be set in stone for future generations. There are, however, those great leaders who we strive to emulate. I'll borrow, with full credit granted, some of the quotations I personally find motivating, some of the quotations that help me understand and recognize the value of integrity in the hope that ethics will become contagious, and the cream of the fitness crop will rise to the top and stand as the centerpiece of the most noble mission we could possibly aspire to . . . helping others to better their lives . . . with Integrity!

In the words of Confucius:

"To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right."


William Shakespeare said:

"No legacy is so rich as honesty."


From the mind of Albert Einstein:

"Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value."


One of Henry Ford's classics:

"Quality means doing it right when no one is looking."


According to Mahatma Ghandi:

"Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony."


Andrew Carnegie said:

"No amount of ability is of the slightest avail without honor."


And from great military leader, General H. Norman Schwarzkopf:

"The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it."


Quoting Mark Twain:

"It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them."


And finally, a wonderful quote I'd love to award credit for . . . but I don't know who said it! I found it on an inspirational greeting card and it's planted itself in my head:

"The slow man with integrity will ultimately catch the swift one who has none."

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