Leadership Lessons from Dance – Show Yourself Grace

As I drove home from social dancing I reflected on my dances for the night and was feeling pretty good about my follow skills during a few dances in particular because I was finally able to completely be present in the moment and be reactive to what I felt the lead was communicating both physically and visually.

I reflected on the fact that it’s not easy to follow. It’s not easy to be aware of your body and react to what you feel rather than what you anticipate, what you think, or what you may have deduced might occur. To stay present and in the moment. To keep your frame engaged so that you don’t miss the signals and so that you get the help to do the movement suggested.

Why this night was worth celebrating was because sometimes I may miss connecting to my leader’s hand or realize I am being led to turn but don’t register it until well after the preferred timing and instead of shrugging it off I cause a domino effect of “mistakes”. I take myself out of being in the present and start feeling bad for “messing up” and start to worry about messing up more, how I might be perceived by this dancer or others watching. I become fearful that I might not be (or might be perceived as not) “good enough”. This line of thought, as you can image, makes me “mess up” even more because now I’m in my head instead of being present for my dance.

As usual, the more I thought about it the more I saw the connection between this dance scenario and management/ leadership. Sometimes you have to be present and in the moment rather than in your head. Sometimes you have to be patient with yourself and give yourself grace so that you can allow the anxiety and fear of the situation subside otherwise you might miss the enjoyable parts of the journey.

As a leader, you may have to give yourself permission (don’t wait for external forces to do it for you) to miss something or to “mess up” and be able to acknowledge it, own it, and move on from it quickly so it doesn’t negatively impact your outcomes.

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