“The truth is the strongest argument,” said Sophocles. It’s a principle that has stood the test of time. In a world where hype dominates the marketing landscape, overpromising and under-delivering is the norm. When it happens in network marketing, it undermines all of us.

Hype can mean either exaggerating or telling only part of the truth. We know every story has two sides. Each success story harbors an untold story of disappointment, sacrifice, and growth. With every story of failure, there is an untold story of lessons learned. Hype ignores the untold story; it looks for the success anomaly (someone added eighty new distributors in thirty days) and puts it on a platform, telling the world, “This is typical.” If you want to find examples of hype in our profession, just go online—they are everywhere.

Recently I got a call from a friend who is a top earner in her company. She told me someone from her team was leaving for another company. She explained that this individual came into her company during a period of high momentum and was utilizing unsustainable business practices, including garage-qualifying (inducing people to buy large inventories that only end up sitting in their garages). When momentum subsided this individual’s business started sliding backwards, because she had brought people in by promoting “fast and easy” and there was little customer volume. Instead of working with her upline to stem the bleed, she stopped working and blamed the company for her lack of results—even though success was all around her.

Unwilling to grow as a leader and do the activities that create sustainable success, she left and joined another company, attracted by the same kind of hyped message she used to build her first business.

The ironic part is that the person who recruited her away from my friend thinks she is recruiting a top leader, when in reality this person has only a tiny business. My friend ended the story by saying, “We sometimes call the person who recruits people away from their company a shark. But sharks are necessary to keep the ocean clean. They get rid of the weak and the dead.”

While hype makes sponsoring easier, the flipside is that it also accelerates attrition. Attrition is normal in our business; not everyone is a fit for network marketing, nor is everyone a fit for every company. Yet unfulfilled expectation, the source of all disappointment, is a difficult hurdle to jump. Disappointment kills dreams and engenders discouragement. Discouraged people often give up and stop working. Eventually, they quit.

Hype also defeats people. When we consistently tout urgency over sustainability by putting on display the speed at which people achieve ranks, those who need a little more time to develop their skill sets can feel defeated.

When I got started in network marketing and attended my first conference, I had attained the first level in my company’s compensation plan. That year, a gentleman was being honored for getting to the top in record time—the same amount of time I had been in the business. I sat in the audience in total awe of what he had accomplished. But here’s the important part: never did my company make me feel less than him for not getting to the same place at the same speed. My company’s message was very balanced: what he achieved was not the rule, yet it was attainable. The company raised the bar without shaming anyone. Shame-based leadership does not work on a volunteer army.

Several years later I was at a company event being honored for reaching the top myself. The gentleman from that first conference was a speaker and told his story about getting to top, then losing his position several months later and having to rebuild to get it back. Thankfully there was room in the company culture for him to pick himself up and get back on the horse. He has remained at the top ever since, for seventeen years now.

Looking back, I realize we had both gotten to the top in the same time frame. Our paths were different, but the overall result was the same. Had I been made to feel “less than” and not valued at that first conference, I would have quit, thinking this business was not for me. Hype doesn’t make space for leaders to emerge. My company attracted two lifelong leaders because there was room for us.

Unfortunately, the latter scenario doesn’t always happen. Often those who move quickly are disproportionately honored for the speed at which they achieve. Whenever there is an untold story—for example, a person came in with previous network marketing experience or has tremendous influence—other distributors start to compare and measure themselves against the person who had a head start. The truth is, while it is possible to propel yourself to the top on sheer energy and/or charisma, staying at the top is an entirely different feat. It means building yourself up as a leader so that you can build others as leaders. Leaders, not volume, determine the stability of any network marketing organization.

Volume needs leadership to grow and sustain itself. If urgency is the primary message, then when people in top positions lose their rank, they feel like failures and leave. In a culture that balances quantity and quality and emphasizes sustainability, leaders don’t feel ashamed if they have a business setback; they are empowered to keep going.

The more hype is tolerated, the more difficult it becomes to attract truth-loving people to our profession. Those who sponsor and promote with integrity are put in the position of having to overcome the poor reputation that follows in hype’s wake. But when we lead with the truth, we will attract the right people—those who make a decision, commit to it, and back it up with action until they attain success.

Honest people don’t expect to have leveraged income as a result of signing a distributor agreement. They don’t expect success to be fast or easy; they want to be challenged and grow.

Truth is the strongest argument for getting involved in our profession. When Sophocles uttered that now-famous line, he had no idea how relevant it would be to a profession yet to be invented.

DANA COLLINS has been a top earner in her company for over ten years.  She lives in Savannah, Georgia, with her three children. Her proudest achievement is to have been very present in their lives while building her network marketing business.