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Health Fitness Management:

Recognizing the Importance of Leaders and Managers

Learning Objectives

  • After studying this chapter, you will be able to
  • understand basic management and leadership theory,
  • identify the roles of the manager and the leader,
  • recognize the critical skills required to be a successful manager,
  • identify behaviors that limit the ability to be a successful manager,and
  • develop a strategy for managing talent.

Sean Greely is the president of Net Profit Explosion (NPE), a company that focuses on empowering fitness business owners to take control of their organizations by providing them with tools, coaching, and education. Sean started out as a personal trainer and grew his small personal training business into a multiple-location business in a very short time. After this successful venture had run its course, Sean recognized a need in the marketplace and a personal desire to help other fitness business owners achieve their dreams. NPE has been on the Inc. 500 list numerous times; this list includes some of the fastest-growing companies in the world.

   Sean has seen massive growth in NPE, and he and his team have helped hundreds of fitness business owners turn their businesses around. Sean is a tremendous leader who has created an extremely devoted client following. The NPE culture is primarily focused on getting clients results and exceeding expectations. NPE’s clients regularly give testimonials, speak at events, and help one another through the various online forums NPE has created. Sean often needs more coaches due to business growth, and he has consistently been able to hire them from a pool of clients who have flourished using his systems.

   Recently, a group of Sean’s VIP clients started a scholarship program for struggling fitness business owners. NPE matches the funds contributed by the clients. At the company’s annual event, Mega Training, eight scholarships were awarded. The scholarships allow people to attend an NPE educational event free of charge.

   As the business grew, Sean recognized that he needed to remove himself from the day-to-day operations. This allowed him to work on the business rather than in it. To do this, he hired great people and developed great systems. Doing this allowed Sean to continue to expand the vision and scope of business that NPE can take on. This never would have happened if Sean had focused on day-to-day operations. This is not to say that he does not know what is going on within the business; rather, he focuses on bigger picture things, such as developing key employees, building a great culture, and setting the longer-term vision for the company. This is a difficult but critical lesson for all fitness business owners to learn.

   As you read in the opening, great leaders need to be sure they are focused on the long-term aspects of the business. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day business operations. When this happens, too often the organization does not hit its long-term goals. Dr. Stephen Covey (2008) says these long-term activities are important but not urgent. Things such as planning, relationship building, and seeking new opportunities are not pressing matters that require immediate attention, but if you don’t address them, the business is not likely to be successful long term.


Over the years, there has been intense interest in the what makes managers and leaders effective and whether there are differences between the roles of managers and leaders. The following overviews of management theory and leadership theory will allow you to draw your own conclusions about the answers to these important questions and to understand current thinking regarding these subjects.

Management Theory

There are three approaches to management theory:

    1. Scientific management approach. This theory defines the relationship between incentive and performance and advocates rewarding people based on their output rather than hours worked. An example would be rewarding salespeople via commission and bonuses (commonly termed incentive pay) rather than paying them an annual salary or hourly rate. Although this approach was developed almost a century ago by Frederick Taylor (1911), it is still effectively used today by many club operators.

    2. Human relations management approach. This theory evolved in the late 1920s and early 1930s from studies on more than 20,000 workers that demonstrated that if employees felt valued, they became more productive. Mayo (1933) hypothesized that when employees felt important, they had higher levels of job satisfaction, which in turn led to higher levels of productivity. The theory has been supported and augmented by several other researchers since Mayo, most notably Maslow (1954), Herzberg (1966), and 
McGregor (1960).

    3. Process (or administrative) approach to management. Originally developed in the 1930s by Gulick and Urwick (1937) and since refined by Hersey, Blanchard, and Johnson (2001) as well as Koontz, O’Donnell, and Weihrich (1984), this approach has a broader perspective on the way managers take actions and make decisions. Five processes revolve around the central constructs of taking actions and making decisions: planning, organizing, directing, staffing, and controlling or evaluating (see figure 1.1). Decisions made in one of the five processes always affect the other four; in other words, the five processes are interrelated. At the risk of stating the obvious, planning is most often done first. An effective manager, however, will most likely perform more than one process simultaneously.

   According to Mintzberg (1973, 1990), the typical manager assumes 10 distinct roles (i.e., sets of expected behaviors associated with a managerial position) that are divided into the following three categories:

   1. Interpersonal roles
• Figurehead who acts in symbolic and ceremonial ways
• Leader who influences and coordinates the work of followers to achieve the goals of the       organization

Figure 1.1 The process approach to management.

    Reprinted by permission from P.M. Pedersen, and L. Thibault, Contemporary Sport Management, 6th ed. (Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics, 2019), 97.
 • Liaison who develops and cultivates relationships with people and groups outside the organization

   2. Informational roles

 • Monitor who scans the environment for information about trends and events that can affect the organization

• Disseminator who transmits information to stakeholders in the organization

• Spokesperson who transmits information to people or groups outside the organization

       3. Decisional roles

• Entrepreneur who searches for opportunities to improve the organization
• Disturbance handler who responds to unexpected situations that may disrupt normal operations
• Resource allocator who determines how to best allocate resources to achieve the goals of the organization
• Negotiator who confers with people or groups outside the organization to obtain concessions or gain agreement on important issues