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A Lesson on Leadership From the Dancefloor

Updated: Jul 15, 2020

No matter how many dances I had I would still need to sum up the courage to ask a lady I have never danced with for a dance. After a minute of getting the courage, I would ask. If she says yes it is the beginning of a new encounter. To my dance partner, depending on how I lead the dance, she will quickly guess in few seconds if she will have an enjoyable 4 minutes or dreadful patience of 4 minutes for the music to stop.

A Lesson on Leadership From the Dancefloor by Hatem Alabki
A Lesson on Leadership From the Dancefloor by Hatem Alabki

If you have not been in a dance class you would be surprised how many times the words leader and follower are being used. Yet its normal cause the whole dance experience is one of leading and following. Being both passionate about dancing and in the business of leadership growth, I have noticed countless resemblances between leadership in dancing and leadership of any kind being corporate, community or parenting. Of all of them there is one specific resemblance where without it there is no leadership whether on the dance-floor or in a fortune 500 company.

Watching dancers who are more seasoned than myself I was fascinated with the complex routines they perform. My first guess to lead such complicated moves is to apply more pressure to my partner to do multiple turns, dips, and twists. With the added pressure I used to exert with my hands my partner could not follow, in fact, my forcefulness was uncomfortable for them and I ended up thinking that they are the problem. Taking a private class with my instructor to get the hang of it, he pointed out to me that I was applying so much pressure that ends up tensing my partner and them resisting my lead, instead what I need to do is relax and have the weight of my body to the side where I am suggesting my partner to move and effortlessly they will go there. He also pointed If I want to lead multiple turns I need to indicate it with a preparation step with raising their hand on the count before then make the turn with a light circular motion. When I applied the changes using just some slight adjustments the tricks that seem to be difficult ended up being simple to apply.

What was different?

My leading have given her a clearer direction.

In corporate settings, it's very tempting to apply forcefulness in leadership. Reaching the end of the year being behind on targets, coming close to a deadline, receiving a customer complaint from a mistake made by one of our direct reports. Our fight or flight response might drive us to be more autocratic, controlling and go into the micro details. The question is once we do are we using the influence of our leadership or carrying the weight ourselves? As a leader on the dancefloor when things become more complex, what is needed is not the forcefulness of our control, what is needed is a clearer sense of direction. For our colleagues at work the vision might have become blurry, the meaning behind why we work might be forgotten, The big picture of what we need to achieve might not be in view cause we are daily in the field. The sense of team spirit has dimmed by our internal conflicts. What effective leadership is to creatively point back to the destination. To take a balcony moment with our colleagues on how we want to work together. To rekindle why what they do matter and the meaning behind it. This gift of clarity will give your colleagues the motivation and resilience to follow your move with less effort leveraging thier own creativity instead of your hard work.

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