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  • Writer's pictureSue Schleifer

Leading Like a Dancer

I am reading Brené Brown’s new book, Dare to Lead, and that has me thinking more about what it means to lead. In partner dancing, the leader in the pair gently and firmly holds his/her partner in a frame and guides the partner with subtle shifts of the body or a light touch of a hand on the back. The follower actively completes the frame, listens with body and mind, and moves in sync. They glide and bend in harmony and rhythm.

The partnering requires communicating with openness, clarity, and vulnerability. If the leader is shifty and not direct, the partner won’t know which way to move. If the partner is not open to receiving direction, s/he will ignore the slight movement in the middle of the back. If the partner resists and doesn’t trust the leader, they both might stumble or move in opposite directions.

I get dizzy when a dancing partner does a lot of spinning. If I don’t let him know that I prefer not to spin, it may not end up too well for either of us. And, if I tell him in advance and he doesn’t listen, I am not a happy partner and won’t be dancing with him anytime soon.

Effective communication is essential in partner dancing and in the leader in each of us. Brown’s definition of a leader is, “anyone who takes responsibility for finding the potential in people and processes, and who has the courage to develop that potential.”

My hope is that we each continue to practice communicating with openness, trust, empathy, self-understanding, curiosity, and vulnerability in our work and in our communities.

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