You may be wondering how in the world twirling around the dance floor can impact a person's leadership abilities, but the topic bears serious consideration.
In her book, Becoming Ginger Rogers: How Ballroom Dancing Made Me A Happier Woman, Better Partner and Smarter CEO, executive Patrice Tanaka discusses the numerous ways that competitive ballroom dancing re-shaped her mind, body and life in ways she never dreamed possible.
In an interview with Forbes magazine (http://onforb.es/I5QkeA), Tanaka explains how learning to lead, follow, and "let go" dramatically changed the way she viewed her business. “I used to be such a solo person,” Tanaka stated, “but in dancing, the woman follows, never leads. In learning how to dance, I’ve learned to know when it’s important to be not just a follower, but an active follower in business.”
Actually, this is an extremely important concept in leadership development. Many leaders believe they must be in "lead" mode 24/7, but this is not the case. Great leaders also know how to be great followers. They understand the concepts of grace and humility. They know when to let others shine. And they know how to mentor their colleagues and employees to make them better people.
On the dance floor, the leader has a number of very important roles. First is to ensure the safety of the follower by safely maneuvering the follower around the floor and taking care to use proper body mechanics to avoid injury. The leader is also responsible for making the follower look good.
Leaders in business should care for their employees, customers, and vendors in much the same way. By keeping an eye on their mission, vision, and values, they can safely and successfully maneuver their businesses in today's highly competitive marketplace.
Consider, too, that dancing develops a number of important cognitive and physical skills that can benefit leaders on many levels. Here are just a few:
- Rhythm. This is especially significant because leaders must be in sync with the beat of their business.
- Timing. In business, timing can be everything. A well-timed merger, innovation, or brand redesign can mean the difference between success and mediocrity.
- Line of dance. Most dances move around the floor in a counter-clockwise pattern, which is contrary to our typical "clockwise" view of the world. Today's leaders must be willing and able to think in nontraditional ways - working outside of the status quo in order to move in new and better directions.
- Amalgamation. When first learning to dance, most people learn the basics of prescribed patterns. Some go on to dance only those patterns while others add their own flair and creativity, blending patterns together into a true art form. Creative leaders understand the importance of having a strong foundation of structure and technique, but they also know how to turn a basic pattern into something new and breathtaking.
Perhaps there is no better way to develop these essential leadership competencies than on the dance floor. I encourage you to give it a try.