The UK Fitness Industry Desperately Needs a New Breed of Leader

Much has been written and spoken recently that the UK fitness industry needs to raise standards  across the board.

However, well meaning aspirations will not translate into tangible progress until the fitness industry benefits from a more forward thinking style of leadership which can maximise the full potential of people's skills, abilities and motivations.

The problem is firmly rooted in those who purport to act as industry leaders.

My preferred definition of a leader is ‘someone who can take you further than you could ever go on your own.'

The best leaders guide us into the unknown and safely out through the other side enabling the opportunity to develop and progress.

They instil meaning into our work, gain our trust and embed the belief that we possess the capability to achieve something truly remarkable.

But here’s the rub; the most productive cultures do not have a single leader but possess leaders at all levels.

They understand that leaders and followers are not static roles.

Google has learnt that the most important dynamic which sets successful teams apart from other teams is what they term 'Psychological Safety.’*

Psychological Safety was first prescribed by the Harvard Professor, Amy Edmondson who wrote:


‘Psychological Safety is not about being nice; it’s not about letting people off easy and being comfortable. It is about the courage to be direct and holding high expectations of each other, understanding that uncertainty and risk are part of the work, as is the occasional failure.’


Too often, the true potential of a team is restricted by the fear of expressing opinions and suggestions that may run counter to the general mode of thinking of the person who assumes grand leader status.

What predominates in the fitness industry is an outmoded leadership style which either fears, or is unsure, how to tap the full cognitive potential of those who operate on the front line.

We all need a single leader at a point in time, but more importantly, is the need to mould a working environment that inspires leadership in us all to step up when the occasion requires, to transform from follower to leader and to suggest new initiatives which enable us all to progress and move forward.

As Google has discovered 'you cannot think yourself into a new way of acting.' You only really learn by doing, experimenting and yes, occasionally failing – which often becomes an enriched learning experience!

Unfortunately, the fitness industry is mired in an outmoded style of leadership which favours hierarchy and command and control resulting in an uninspired workforce where the most talented chose to leave the industry for a less backward thinking working environment.

How often do we witness a gym reception inhabited by a non-welcoming culture or a gym floor characterised by personal trainers who are lacking in direction or indeed, gym operators whose commercial inertia fails to introduce innovative mechanisms to open their doors to new members?

Until we see a new breed of leader who can capitalise fully upon the full talents of people and adopt a more inclusive leadership style then we will be forced to witness the repetition of the status quo and remain with the appalling statistic that a mere 12% of the UK population participates in any gym activity whatsoever.


*Google’s5 key team dynamics:

1. Psychological safety

2. Dependability

3. Structured & Clarity

4. Meaning of Work

5. Impact of Work