Leadership Lessons from Dance – Don’t Just Mirror, Learn Your Footwork!

Just because you can follow a high level lead doesn’t mean you are at that level.”

Let me explain:

The other day I was assistant teaching in a group class and we were doing high level combinations. I rotated this follow who was having some trouble and I realized it was because of her footwork. She didn’t know what she was supposed to be doing so when the combo got harder she got lost.

She was able to follow her way through until this point when the combo required her to know more and level up. I quickly showed her the footwork but had to move on to the next person. I hope that she practices at home and comes back ready for the next class but I sadly doubt that will happen because life.

As I reflected on that experience it made me realize that sometimes a lead can “carry” a follow along with them and make them look good but if that person was left to dance alone they would not be able to dance at the same level.

I began to wonder how did this student even get into that group level if she didn’t know the footwork but I recognize that sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between someone mirroring what they see or someone knowing and doing confidently. The Bloom’s taxonomy cognitive development stage of remembering vs. understanding vs. applying.

A student may be able to recall, replicate, and follow when someone is in front of them or leading them through the movements but they are not really aware of what they are doing or why they are doing it so they can’t execute it on their own.

A dancer may be able to do a movement or even lead a movement but when they are asked to do the footwork on their own or to teach it to someone else that is a whole other level of understanding that may not be there.

As I often do, I then thought about this in the leadership space and how some people may be able to be flashy, to talk a good game, or to look like they know what they are doing but when their mentor, supervisor, sponsor, leader leaves the organization their true level of knowledge and influence is revealed to be lower than first it seemed.

So there you have it:

“Just because you can follow at a high level lead doesn’t mean you are at that level.”

What do you think? Have you experienced people like this?

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