You can’t change others, Mills says. You have to be the change you wish to see, through what you do and how you show up in the world. Your influence comes through your action.
“It is so powerful when you realize that there are things you can change and things you can’t change, and then there are things you have to move away from. Ultimately, the only thing you can change is yourself,” Mills says.
This is true for fitness instructors, as well, whom Mills calls role models. “If you are a fitness instructor, then you need to be fit and you need to be healthy, role modeling that way of life,” she says. “Others may choose to be inspired by you, motivated by you as an instructor. I would say that is a very cool responsibility to have.”
Successful leadership begins and ends with living authentically. “As a leader, I have to be authentic. People trust me … they trust me by making the right decisions for the company, around what they are working for, so that has to come from a sense of meaning and purpose that is true and honest,” Mills explains.
People recognize authenticity and are attracted to it when they’ve found it. “People see through personas and our masks, and they want to be able to trust and they want to follow someone who is leading a meaningful life,” she says.
For Mills, one of the highlights of being an instructor is the connection that grows from sharing your love of fitness with others, watching it transform them, and seeing it become a constant in their lives.
“Instructors are often held up in people’s eyes as someone quite special, and so they tell you things about themselves and their lives that they might not share with other people, and it’s really deeply rewarding to go through those journeys with people and have a special relationship with them,” Mills says. “Instructing is about connecting … it is about fitness but it is really about connecting.”
The law of attraction
Les Mills is the phenomenon it is because it is not just a company but also a tribe, Mills says. “I think our family business has a real heart and a real soul. As a family, we deeply care about what we do, we care very much about the people who work with us. We call everyone a team; we are one tribe and we stand together, and we see them as part of our family. I know personally I stand very much in that.”
One of the characteristics of a tribe is that it attracts like-minded people. “The people who are attracted to this company are like-minded, change agents, helpers—people who really want to create a better world,” she explains. “A change agent is someone who wants to effect change in the world, to do something that is positive for people. I believe our instructors are change agents.”
Being a tribe means more than being a team. It’s a way of being in the work that is positive, powerful and radiates outwardly, Mills says.
“It comes from the heart of who we are and the soul of the business and it radiates right out. We are truly one tribe of people,” she says.
Love what you do
At the end of the day, if you don’t truly love what you do, there will be no authenticity, connection or attraction. “I totally love what I do,” Mills says. “I love people, and every day I’m inspired by the people who I work with. There are so many people who fill me up. I love getting up and going to work. It just feels like the right thing for me in my life and the right expression of who I am on the planet.”
Les, Mills’ son, calls his mom the “Mother of Les Mills.”
“He says that because I care so deeply about what we do and about everyone who works with us that I am a little bit like a mother,” she explains. “Maybe I am. It’s not something I set out intentionally to do, but it is a real driving force for me to make sure that people are unobstructed in their work and get to be the best that they can be at work. So if I can help them in any way, then I feel like I’m doing my job.”
Photos courtesy Les Mills International