So, I worry if I can do anything for just pure fun. Either I need to have a purpose for what I do, or reflect on the lessons after. Ballroom dancing is my newest hobby to come under the microscope!

I had just completed my third lesson in partner dancing ever! And sat down to reflect on new insights into myself, leadership and following.

After my first lesson, I realized how much I enjoyed being led. In everyday life, it seems I am always in the driver’s seat whether it is running my business, initiating projects, bringing together people for practise groups or dance or dinner … and I didn’t realize why I was doing it, until I was led by this one guy during tango lessons that I chose to drive three hours to. It took being led by an experienced person to discover that I need competence to trust and let go of leading!

This particular “coach” (as we rotate through partners in this class) invited me to be present, and attentive without trying to anticipate what the next move was going to be. “Don’t think, just feel,” he would advise. When I failed to read his cues, he would ask, “Did you open your eyes or did you start thinking?” Sometimes when I was unable to follow as he intended, I would blame in frustration, “You didn’t give me the right cues.” He would respond, “You’re right, I could have done better” or “No, I gave you all the right cues.” The point is that the feedback was mutual and this “leader” didn’t have the need to be right all the time.

At my third class, a young kid came for the first time, and I was the more experienced of the two in spite of being in the following position and new to partner dancing. When he was being tentative about leading me through turns or transitions, I found myself giving him tips to be more directive … a bit more weight with the right hand to move me forward or shift the hand position to make me turn. I was supporting him being a better leader from the follower position.

While I enjoyed being led by an experienced leader, I was also able to empower leadership being a follower.

The cool thing about this class is that a couple of women have taken on leading, since there seem to be more women than men. One woman, quite a bit shorter than me, found me alone between partners and offered to lead me. She cautioned, “I am really new to leading, so I am not able to do any fancy maneuvers.” I was thrilled to get a chance to improve on the basics. She challenged my implicit bias on how I envision a leader and his / her skills. This woman was competent in a few simple moves and offered me a chance to get off the sidelines. (And talking of implicit bias, there’s a great Ted Talks and demonstration by Trevor Copp and Jeff Fox on Ballroom dance that breaks gender roles.)

I had embarked on ballroom dancing to get out of my head to be more present and learn non-verbal communication. The bonus has been learning to be a better follower and supporting leadership from the passenger seat!