Leadership Lessons on The Dance Floor

2012-07-08 23.10.04








There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. … No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others
― Martha Graham

This past weekend I took  my very first waltz lesson. I sucked…. I sucked badly.

I love to dance, I don’t necessarily do it well- but I love it. The picture you see with this post is me last summer  dancing with my BFF Pam. We were pretending we were 18  and danced the night away. We are far from 18 but still had so much fun.  I understand this dancing. I go out and let the music move me around the dance floor.. I shake my hips and move my body anyway it wants to go.  I give up all power and control to the beat and let the music cleanse me.

That is not the waltz. The waltz is a sliding or gliding dance-where the partners hold each other close and one leads while the other follows.

One leads. The one leading was not I.

I am not use to dancing any dance ( or doing many things for that matter) where I give up my power /control and trust my partner to safely move me around a dance floor. The Lead  is responsible for choosing appropriate steps to suit the music. They make all the decisions on where you will go and how you will get there. I had no say in where we went nor how we got there.

Have you met me?

This simple dance lesson tripped so many triggers in me! All my trust issues were brought to light.  For me, exploring the limits of the Leader-Follower relationship became a fascinating case in leadership. Here is what I learned:

1. When I had a strong lead that  was experienced and confident… I easily followed and more willingly gave up my power.

2.When I had a weak or inexperienced lead I did not give up my power… our dance was more of a coup than a waltz. I fought my lead every step of the way. My natural instinct saw that leadership was lacking and I instinctively wanted to step in and fill the void. I should have encouraged them to be stronger leaders not wrestle them to the ground.

3. Just having the title of ” lead” does not mean that you can… and it also does not mean that I will follow.

4.Partner dancing like partnerships requires awareness and clear communication; this is essential both for safety and for the overall success of the dance. Now that is a metaphor for life!

5. In partner dancing, dancers seek to work together to create synchronized or complementary movements. The lead helps the follower use their strengths for the greater good

6. Sometimes miscommunication is possible between the Lead and Follow. A general rule a great lead taught me was  do not wrestle  your partner for dominance. It will work it way out.

7. Sometime you will be  an active follower and others a passive follower. ‘Backleading’ is when a Follow is executing steps without waiting for, or interfering with the Lead’s lead.  This is bad form in dance and also bad form in life.


Will I partner dance again? Actually yes.. I am contra dancing this week. I am sure I will want to lead and it will be hard to give up my power.  I will have to trust, its not an option if I want the dance to be successful. That is OK, I thinks have many more lessons coming my way on the dance floor…..stay tuned!









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