There is nothing like learning something new to teach you a few life lessons. I took up West Coast Swing dance lessons this month and have found them to be challenging, insightful and full of great information that applies to life beyond the dance floor. Beautiful execution is dependent on clear direction by the leader while allowing for creative input from the follower. If you have never seen the dance before search it and Youtube or follow the link above… you may be inspired to try it!

So what does it take to perfect the dance? First, love what you do! If you don’t have a passion for it, you will only be going through the motions which make it difficult for all of those around you to know how to work with you. This is directly true of the dance and in what you do in your organization.

Second, you must allow for a creative tension between holding your own position or frame (like a picture frame) and yet allowing your partner the flexibility to lead or follow you depending on your role. I found this to be the most challenging and yet insightful aspect of learning the dance. As a leader, you must know what you want and yet must be in touch with the one you are leading and allow them their space. You need to keep with the flow of music, but be just a half step ahead and know the direction you want them to go. As a follower, you must know your role and steps while you hold onto your own frame and strengths to keep the creative tension needed so that the leader can guide you – note this means you also must be sensitive to where they are leading so you can follow the natural flow. The leader also needs to allow space for the follower to express their own creativity and not demand they follow too tightly.

To successfully maintain the creative tension both parties must maintain their area of strength but also have trust, confidence, and flexibility. The follower must be confident enough to leave themselves slightly vulnerable to the leader, but then the leader must pay attention to their follower well enough to lead without taking them out of their frame, step, or strength. This is the same in organizations, as leaders need to take the time to know the people that they lead, so they can help them maximize their strengths and talents and not micromanage them or stifle their creativity.

Finally, it takes practice, practice, practice to get this right! To enter this dance without passion will lead to burn out, it will cause you to look at all the mistakes instead of the progress, and you will not feel the thrill of conquering and improving. To enter this dance without holding on to your frame of strengths and yet identifying the strengths of your partner will lead to a lack of trust that is needed to build the creative tension for a great working relationship. If at first, you don’t succeed, have a good laugh, keep smiling and communicate about how to rebuild the creative tension and start over.

The same is true in organizations, you need to communicate about what worked and what didn’t work, you need to communicate and commit to what you will do differently to change and improve on both sides. If you think of it as a creative dance and that each time you dance you get a little better, it will be much more rewarding.

Also, note If your outcome is to be a better dancer, a great dance instructor can point out where to make improvements. If your outcome is leading others or building a stronger team, assessments can help you understand the passions, strengths, and processing ability of those around you so you know how to help them use their area of strength when you lead.

Are you ready to take a deep dive into your leadership strengths and yes, your limitations? If you want to experience the most insightful instrument now available take a no-obligation, a no-risk journey starting here!