“Tango is the one place where we [women] let men think they are in charge…”
…said the wise tango instructor as she took the women to one side to teach us our moves, while her husband took the men to the other side to learn their leading steps.
Let me start by telling you she was wrong.
Dancing as a couple can be a joyful expression of partnership. But there has to be a leader and a follower.
Last week I had the pleasure of teaching a salsa class with my friend Ricardo Archila, who I know through the San Mateo Chamber of Commerce. We taught a short class to the adventurous attendees at our Friday fun-and-networking lunch series. My dear friend and colleague Rosie Bank gets full creds for the video clip above.
Ricardo led us in a great comparison of the partnership of dancing with leading and following in business, entitled
“Music & Dance Makes You Smarter, Happier And More Productive”
There is a lot of talk (and books, and blogs, and on and on) about leadership these days, but the role of the follower is just as important.
Following in dancing is not a passive role.
The follower must stay on her own axis, tuned in to the leader and ready to be led into the next step, not anticipating in her mind what she thinks is coming next. She has to be connected to her leader and feel in her body where she is being led.
Leading in dancing does mean being in charge (the opinion of my L.A. tango teacher aside). The leader looks out for traffic on the dance floor, channels the music (hopefully) and decides what the next steps will be.
A gracious leader always takes responsibility for missteps.
A gracious follower can make her leader look good even when the lead wasn’t perfect.
My current tango instructor Gustavo Hornos compares the follower to a high-performance race car, where the leader cannot just step on the gas or crank the steering wheel without first getting a good sense of how the car will respond.
In business as in dance, a leader cannot simply say what will happen next with no sensitivity to the follower.
Similarly, the enterprise does not go so smoothly if the follower does not let the leader lead!
In tango class this week, Gustavo’s wife Jesica wisely said that between the leader and follower there must be trust, but it is not a blind trust. It is a trust that works when each side does their job correctly.
In business as in dance, even in a doctor-patient relationship, the leader and follower must stay in communication with each other. They must each do their part.
I’m all for strong women who can lead.
However, there is a lesser known skill in surrendering while “staying on your own axis”. One of my past instructors told me he knew of women sent by their psychotherapists to learn tango as a way of learning to consciously relinquish control in the moment.
If you don’t already know the feeling, I invite you to experience the pleasure and empowerment of allowing yourself to be led. It’s a welcome break from being in charge as much as we women are now, and also it’s fun!
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