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5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Dancing

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5 Leadership Lessons You Can Learn From Dancing

You might be the kind of person who’s terrified to dance badly in a crowd of strangers, let alone step out on the dance floor where people can actually see you.

You may be the kind of person who feels they have two (or more!) left feet, or maybe you take to the dance floor like a bird to the air; either way, what you are is a leaderWe’re all leaders. You don’t have to own your own business or be in a position of management – whether it’s working on a project with co-workers, having fun with friends, or helping our own families, we all have opportunities to lead and influence others.

One place that’s crawling with leaders is the dance floor. As a former Salsa instructor, going out for a night of dancing might not seem like a place to learn leadership skills, but with Salsa (and any kind of partner dance), there’s some assigned roles: the Lead and the Follow.

The Leads (traditionally guys) decide what moves to perform, and the Follows (traditionally women) read the movements and go along with it to make it work. First time Leads, are thrown into a leadership role they might not have expected. When you just start out, it’s tough. I never did any dancing as a kid, and getting out there and being responsible for another person can be intimidating.

Whether you dance or not, there’s some leadership lessons to take away from the dance floor and apply it to the rest of your life.

Here are 5 leadership lessons you can learn from dancing:

 

1. Adjust on the fly

Sometimes things don’t go our way. We can try to force it to work, or we can roll with the punches and adjust. In Salsa, if you’re a Lead, this can take the form of doing a move you thought would work and it doesn’t. Maybe you made a mistake, or maybe your dance partner has just never done that kind of move before.

It’s not the end of the world. You can improvise instead, and a move that didn’t work turns into a new one that does.In real life, maybe you have a business plan that doesn’t work exactly the way you want it to, or maybe you’re just trying to get your friends out to a bar and it falls through.

How can you adapt and turn it to your advantage?

“Life is like dancing. If we have a big floor, many people will dance. Some will get angry when the rhythm changes. But life is changing all the time.” – Miguel Angel Ruiz

2. It’s about creating comfort and challenge

Nothing can hurt a relationship more than making people feel awkward and uncomfortable. Make people feel comfortable, and they’ll want to be around you. With Salsa, no one wants to dance with a partner who makes them feel uneasy.

Some people make their partner feel uncomfortable because they’re being creepy and sexually aggressive, or because the moves they’re doing hurt. Others though make their dance partners uncomfortable because they throw moves at them that are way above their level. That creates a huge gap.

The person sees how far it is to the other side, and mentally (or physically) walks away. Too big of a gap and we don’t want to cross it. But if the gap is smaller it becomes a challenge, and they’ll rise up and do their best to leap across. After jumping across lots of small gaps, the huge one won’t seem so big after all.

 

3. It’s about clear communication

You can tell people any message you want, but if it’s unclear it won’t get through to them the way you want it to. In Salsa if the Lead tries a move that isn’t communicated clearly, the Follow may move in an unexpected way, or not at all.

Our bodies communicate more than our words ever can. People may not consciously pay attention to your body, but they still hear what it says. Good Leads make sure their body is saying what they want it to.

If they stand and move with confidence, their partner will feel it and follow smoothly. The Follow will also feel any insecurity, and her steps will be less sure as a result.

 

4. Take the opportunity…If it’s right

Sometimes we take too long thinking about an opportunity and we miss it. If you’re out dancing, you may see someone across the room you want to dance with. Maybe you go for it right away, but maybe you don’t. Maybe you have to think about it.

Maybe you have to work yourself up first, and you have to position yourself to get ahead of everyone else who wants to as well. It’s ok. You can wait until the next song. If it looks like a good opportunity, don’t wait too long, or it might be gone forever. If you do miss the opportunity, don’t sweat it.

There’s never just one. There’s a whole room of opportunities if you take the time to look for them.

“Opportunity dances with those already on the dance floor.” – H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

5. The best leads also follow

The best Leads and Follows know that the roles are fluid. Sometimes your partner does something unexpected; you can either ignore what they did, or you can follow the Follow’s movements and make it into something wonderful.

Learning both roles, the best, know the challenges their partners’ face. Instead of issuing blind commands, they can empathize with them and make win/win decisions rather than win/lose. There’s no shame in learning about a different role other than your own.

If you only have half the picture, you’re missing valuable information. It may be uncomfortable to step outside of what you know, but when you know the whole picture you can Lead that much better.

 

No matter what walk of life you’re in, it’s importance to recognize the influence you have with others. You’re already a leader – it’s time to step up to it.

If you have any leadership skills learned from odd places, let me know in the comments below!

Mark Reagan helps people overcome their fears and anxieties. If you enjoyed this, check out his blog at BreakMyLimits.com and sign up for your free report, “101 Things Holding You Back From Being Your Best Self.”

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Ram

    Apr 26, 2018 at 4:10 am

    Great analogy between dancing and leadership. It gives an important lesson of how coordinated efforts between a leader and a team make a spectacle. Must follow tips, esp in the current day startup world.

  2. Dr. Suzanne Minarcine

    Sep 16, 2016 at 9:48 pm

    As a dancer and as a leader, I totally agree. I never thought about it this way but this makes total sense.

  3. Lawrence Berry

    Jul 24, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    I really like the way this was written and I agree with everything you have said here. Leadership is about making decisions promptly and confidently. adjusting when needed, and having clear communication. It is good to know that if I improve my leadership skills, I will also improve my dancing skills lol

    • Mark Reagan

      Jul 26, 2015 at 3:20 am

      Haha, thanks for reading Lawrence. I don’t know if it’ll improve your dancing skills, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to try!

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Life

Don’t Want To Feel Like A Failure Anymore? Stop Doing These 6 Things

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It’s pretty annoying isn’t it? All those great and accomplished people telling you that FAILURE is a necessity on your way to success. Yeah, that’s easy for them to say; they’re already ‘on the other side’! You on the other hand, are still struggling all day everyday to get your business lifted off the ground and are really not that sure if you’re indeed going to make it.

There’s that little voice in your head that keeps telling you that you don’t have the stuff to make it all happen. Not now and not ever. You feel like a failure…it’s holding you back and you don’t know how to deal with it. Well you could do yourself a favor and start dealing with it by doing the following things:

1. Stop Denying You Feel Like A Failure

Telling yourself things are going great when they’re not is one of the biggest, though most useless, coping mechanisms human beings deploy in rough times. Common denial signals among entrepreneurs: trying to regain more control by working even more hours and on the other side compensating this by letting go of all this control by partying and drinking way too hard.

What you’re doing is denying yourself the opportunity to actually feel what’s going on and acknowledge the problem; that both you and your business are in a bad place. Without acknowledging it, it’ll be pretty difficult to actually STOP feeling it. And remember, just because you feel like a failure, this does not mean that you indeed ARE a failure!

2. Stop Making It Bigger Than it Really Is

This is one of those other ‘fun’ things human beings do; we blow things way out of proportion in our heads! In business, when you lose that big client you’ve been working on for weeks, it feels like it’s the end of the world. You start doubting yourself, your strategy, your entire business model right up to the point where you barely sleep because you’re working on pivoting the whole thing.

But what if that customer simply didn’t have the money to go for your service anyway? Or what if they just decided to go for someone who is cheaper but who offers less quality? Does that mean there’s something wrong with YOU? Or that this was the ONLY customer out there and that you’re now doomed forever?

Of course not, it simply means that THIS CUSTOMER wasn’t a match. It’s a bit like dating actually…So if you take this into consideration, could it be that you just feel like a failure instead of really not succeeding in that what you want to at this point in time?

3. Stop Thinking You’re The Only One Who Feels Like This

You’re not! With the possible exception of the true sociopaths, that feeling you’re feeling is very normal to EVERYONE. It might not seem like it on the outside – because people don’t like to acknowledge this remember – but I can guarantee you that it’s true. But unlike 99% of the world’s population, YOU’RE not going to let this feeling stop you in your tracks. Are you?

4. Stop Thinking You’re Supposed To Be Superhuman

In fact, it’s very likely that you’re already doing, learning and succeeding at WAY more than most other people are. But for entrepreneurs, somehow, that never seems to be enough. You don’t just want to be successful after a few years of hard work (which is normal). You want to be successful after only a few months. Because you’re special…or at least you think you are…

Well, here’s the truth: you ARE special! But…it’s just not very likely that you’re one of those – very very rare – entrepreneurial superstars that – seemingly – just added some hot water and got instant business success as a result.

5. Stop Being So Incredibly Stubborn

Entrepreneurs are stubborn…almost by default. It’s what makes them push forward in the hardest of times. But…if you’re not doing the right things right you might just be hammering a square peg through a round hole. Which will only add to that frustrated feeling you’re already having. So why not stop being so stubborn for a moment, stop hammering away on that what obviously is not working and ask for help?

No matter who you ask – a business mentor or coach, a befriended entrepreneur – someone with a neutral perspective on you and our business will be very likely to see what’s going on with a lot more clarity than you can and can guide you to a place that will feel a whole lot more comfortable.

6. Stop Being Afraid Of Failure

I know, I know, you’ve heard this a million times before and you wouldn’t be in this pickle if you could do this. Right? I’m right there with ya!

But, if you get really rational about it, what’s the worst that could happen?

  • You might have to get a ‘real’ job for a while and start over on the side;
  • You might not be able to afford your rent anymore…but with Airbnb on the 1 hand and couchsurfing on the other, you should be able to work it out somehow;
  • You’ll have all the more experience to start over a whole lot faster;
  • You’ll be no less respected by anyone because it’s clear you gave it your all;
  • In a few years, when you’re an established and supersuccessful entrepreneur you’ll also have a cool failure story to tell;
  • None of your limbs will fall off;

Now that’s not too bad for a plan B is it? Failure is such a negative word. And the associated feeling is terrible and numbing. But really…how is giving it your all and not succeeding really the same as failing? Shouldn’t the definition of failure not be along the lines of ‘not even trying’ or ‘giving up when it gets hard’?

In other words: stop beating yourself up over this!

There’s really no need to feel like a failure at all because you’re sticking your neck out, you’re trying to make a difference and you’re still moving upward on that treacherous entrepreneurial mountain.

And that…is what success REALLY is.

Those Who Failed Their Way To Success

Quotes To Live By:

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” – Robert F. Kennedy

“If you don’t try at anything, you can’t fail… it takes back bone to lead the life you want” – Richard Yates

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

“We are all failures – at least the best of us are.” – J.M. Barrie

“Success is stumbling form failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm” – Winston Churchill

“Don’t let success go to your head and failure to your heart” – Will Smith

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Some people will achieve great things. Others won’t. But why is that? We’re all just “talking monkeys on an organic spaceship flying through the universe,” as Joe Rogan puts it. So why do some “talking monkeys” build 7 or 8 figure businesses, travel the world, and live the life of their dreams while the rest of us… well, wish we were living the life of our dreams. (more…)

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