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Leadership On And Off The Dance Floor

Periodically I’d like to present to you articles from people who have unique insights on partner dancing. Today’s post is co-authored by my wife and dance partner Susan Robinson. Susan has assisted me in many of my classes, has taught her own students, and is an avid observer of partner dancers (and people in general.) Off the dance floor, she currently holds a senior management role at a national not-for-profit organization and has had more successes than she ever talks about in her nearly 20 year healthcare career. We have written this article on leadership, paralleling the similarities of our respective professional worlds.

Leadership On And Off The Dance Floor

Imagine a ballroom where a lead and follow set their frame.  As soon as the music starts, the pair is painfully out of sync with each other and the music, stepping on themselves and bumping into other dancers; or an office where individuals vie for the individual recognition of superiors, deliberately omit critical pieces of information that prevent others’ success, and watch profit-dropping or client-leaving trends without effective effort to stop them.  Amongst other probable issues, both of these b-room scenarios lack leadership.

Great leaders in the boardroom have much in common with great leaders in the ballroom, no matter how many left feet they have.  Great leaders share a unique blend of skills and characteristics (a few are below) that enable them to be successful.

Communication — clearly conveying ideas to others.

Adaptability — adjusting to a changing environment

Problem solving — finding creative solutions

Commitment to teamwork — focusing on the success of the group

Charisma — inspiring others

On the dance floor, great Leads establish the partnership’s frame, rhythm and timing, allowing the partnership to move seamlessly across the floor.  The Lead monitors the floor craft, and can (and will) stop instantaneously or change direction and pattern when another pair moves too close to them.  The Lead respects the Follow’s role and both fulfill their responsibilities so that success is achieved.

In the office, great leaders set the tone for those who are part of the team. They make goals clear and understandable to team members. They know the team’s resources, identify its needs, and help it progress to its goals. They also guide the team when it needs to shift as new information and resources become available. Great leaders also facilitate the best contributions of each team member so that the entire team reaches its goals.

Great leaders bring to their roles a complex set of characteristics that helps them focus on goals and achieve success. Great leadership helps to choreograph the accomplishments of any team, from a partnership on the dance floor to a multi-disciplary task force in a work setting.

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