A couple of weeks ago, I decided to drag my husband to dance class. I’ve always loved to dance. Him? Not so much. I thought the class would be fun. We’d have some time together. Maybe he would be more comfortable on the dance floor. We could learn some real dance moves to take the place of the ones we’ve improvised since the early 90’s.
What I didn’t expect was an amazing lesson on leadership.
Here are five things dancing the rumba reminded me about leadership:
What leadership is: When talking about leading your dance partner, the instructor described it as an irresistible invitation to come along with you. Think of the great leaders you’ve known. Has that vision they’ve created and the actions they’ve taken created an irresistible invitation to come along?
What makes great leadership different: When a dance partner is leading really, really well, the other partner doesn’t stop to think about being led. It is effortless. It is like the two of you are naturally in sync. You aren’t constantly questioning the path or trying to move in a different direction. The leader operationalizes that irresistible invitation.
Leaders step up when the need arises: Traditionally, we’re taught that when a man and woman are dancing together, the man leads. Actually, as I learned, either partner can lead. If one finds that their partner just keeps doing the same step over and over, the other partner can take the lead and move the couple into the next series of steps. When leadership is shared, we move where we need to go rather than staying on a course that may no longer be the correct one.
Indecision makes for sore toes: When leading, it’s important to be at least one step ahead so that when the time comes, you effortlessly move on to what’s next. If you haven’t thought about your next step or are not sending the correct messages, your partner assumes you are continuing on the same path. You move in one direction. Your partner moves in the other. Now, you have sore toes.
That there is always another step: Just when you think you have the dance down and know how to lead, the instructor adds another series of steps that are completely different from what you just got comfortable doing. The demands of leadership change. We have to be open to knowing that what we were just successful doing, is now only part of what’s required of us.
After four lessons my husband and I are still occasionally stepping on each others’ toes, but we’re learning to lead each other in new ways that challenge and engage us, bringing a new energy to the dance floor!