“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.”
-- John C. Maxwell

I don’t know much about John C. Maxwell – or even what else he has said – but when I came across his comment about leadership, it struck a chord with me because it mirrors what I believe. Leaders know, go, and what is most important, show. Another way to put it is: they walk the talk.

But not everyone does know, go, and show or walk the talk, at least not in physique sports. Although there are many competitors, and in turn, quite a few winners, since there is at least one in each category at every event, there are actually very few whom I’d classify as being leaders, particularly if you believe Maxwell’s quote to be true. Off the top of my head, I can think of about ten competitors I know of who are true leaders, maybe fewer, which is an unbelievably low number given how many competitions I’ve seen over the years. Of those ten or so, I’m focusing this article on two in order to help make the point that simply competing on a stage is not what makes a leader; instead, it’s what they do off the stage that matters more.

The undisputed leader among competitors is none other than Arnold Schwarzenegger, who really needs no introduction because pretty everyone in the world already knows who he is. But it is worth mentioning his accomplishments, which, I believe, make him a true physique-sports leader.

Arnold SchwarzeneggerArnold in 1980

Arnold began as a competitor and ultimately became the person many consider to be the greatest bodybuilder of all time. But after retiring from competition for the first time in 1975 (he made a one-contest comeback in 1980), he turned around and promoted the same contest he was the reigning champ in, the Mr. Olympia, and raised the prize money awarded to the winner tenfold. It was a paltry $1,000 when he won in 1975, but $10,000 in 1976! Arnold’s partner in that event was Jim Lorimer, who also partnered with him to create the Arnold Classic, which has since grown to become the Arnold Sports Festival, the largest event of its type in North America, and possibly the world.

His successes in competitions and then promotions are significant enough, but, of course, Arnold’s accomplishments extend far beyond the bodybuilding world. Arnold became a hugely popular Hollywood actor in the 1980s. Following that, he successfully moved into politics in the 1990s, becoming the California governor for two terms. It’s one thing to be incredibly successful in one area, but almost unheard of to have that kind of success in many areas! Yet Arnold did.

Arnold SchwarzeneggerArnold in Predator (1987)

As everyone knows, Arnold is back in Hollywood these days, and although his star isn’t shining as brightly as it did throughout the 1980s, which was his heyday there, he’s still a formidable presence with tremendous influence because of his worldwide popularity. What’s also important to point out is that even when Arnold’s career path moved from bodybuilding and into acting and politics, he promoted bodybuilding and fitness almost as much as when he was competing. As a result, anyone who competes on a physique stage owes Schwarzenegger a debt of gratitude for the promotion he’s provided over the decades.

Frankly, I don’t think anyone will ever match Schwarzenegger’s accomplishments because they are so huge and varied – he really is a larger-than-life success story – but there are a few others making significant leadership contributions to the world of physique sports. One person closer to home and much more important to me is a great Canadian competitor who can also be considered a true leader: Denis Pedneault, pictured on our cover this month speaking with MC Carlo Lombard at the 2014 Physique Canada Canadian Championships. Denis is a guy who not only walks the talk, but also takes risks that few would ever consider.

Many years ago, when I first met Denis, he was a rising competitor on the Canadian and international scenes. I have watched him become the most successful Canadian bodybuilding competitor of the last two decades, having won four national-level titles with the CBBF, and having competed in the IFBB’s world championships three times. Yet Denis wasn’t 100 percent happy competing, even with his successes. He became disillusioned, mainly because he’s a lifetime drug-free athlete who believes that drug-free competing should have much broader acceptance than it had been getting, particularly within the organizations he was willing to support. He just wasn’t feeling it was there. As a result, the moment Physique Canada was created, which carried a mandate to provide true drug-free competitions through a world-class anti-doping program, Denis said goodbye to the organizations where he had been competing and jumped on board to be part of Physique Canada. Even if he never actually competed again – with Physique Canada or otherwise – it was that important for him to be involved, because he believed in what the organization stood for. His thoughts on this subject were captured in a video that Physique Canada produced last year and can be seen below.

Of course, Denis did compete again – at Physique Canada’s 2013 Canadian Championships – and won, which the video also shows. That win brought his national-level titles to five. He’s now hinting that he might compete again.

Yet, like Arnold, Denis is doing even more than simply stepping onto the stage. Shortly after his win at the 2013 Canadian Championships, he announced that he’d like to promote a Physique Canada competition, and this he did with the help of his partner and friend Serge Moreau. Together the two put on a very successful event on July 12, 2014, in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec. The result was so successful and so promising that Denis will promote it again in the same location in 2015, but later in the year so more competitors have even more time to prepare (La Coupe Pro Gym Physique Canada will be held on November 29, 2015). Now that’s the kind of commitment that makes a leader!

Mathieu Roy with Denis PedneaultDenis Pedneault congratulating Mathieu Roy at the 2014 Canadian Championships

Knowing, going, and showing – it’s pretty safe to say that Denis performed all three. However, as I said at the outset, there are, unfortunately, not many competitors like him, or like Arnold. Mind you, I always try to be an optimist and I’m hopeful that in the future we’ll see others becoming leaders as more competitors realize that leaders aren’t created through their actions on the stage, but off it.

Doug Schneider
SeriousAboutMuscle.com Founder and Publisher