Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Take the lead…

I am not thinking about the movie but about dance, especially salsa. I remember my dance teachers say that when you dance salsa in couples, the guy takes the lead and the girl has to follow him. And this is a common point among different salsa dance styles. And this idea somehow was not clear for me until I heard a Cuban teacher said that the guy would take the lead in order to make the girl shine bright. Furthermore, he is supposed to smile at her and make her feel great so that you will naturally respond to this “suggestion” smiling and will look charming. It sounds interesting for me: a good metaphor that illustrates how I understand leadership, a relationship of mutual influence that implies that he is not the leader and she is not a follower where dancers are part of an entity that achieves a specific goal, enjoying dancing salsa for instance. The fascinating thing is that when you see or dance salsa, you cannot be aware of this leadership; you are just enjoying the dance.

You can consider that this is not an adequate example, because it is based on a duo. But I can continue with another salsa style, “rueda de casino”. This is a dance performed in couples, have you ever seen it? 

Well, there are pairs that form a circle and dance and, when a caller/leader of the group makes a sign, they exchange partners without loosing the rhythm. And, any naïve spectator will not realize how they do it, you just know they are doing such a wonderful performance, with a precise coordination where the ability of individuals and the group is mise-en-scène! What is going on there? I believe that besides time to practice, to have such a performance, everybody knows his/her role (dance steps and times) as well as the caller assumes is one of them but also has a leader role and dancers trust their leader and the actions he/she will guide.

Maybe I am relating this situation with what I have seen in many organizations, where the minimal unit is a team, under the guidance of a manager who is supposed to be a leader, most of the times. You can observe, in the best performance teams, that they are doing a great job and you will only notice what happened when you ask the leader what she/he has done. I believe that there is more than team member’s mastery and commitment with his/her duties, and the acceptance of the legitimacy of the leader. I dare to say that mutual collaboration and trust on each other’s commitment makes these teams achieve their goals.


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  2. "The guy takes the lead and the girl has to follow him." That sounds familiar. It was two years ago,in a tango class.The teacher kept reminding us that "It's the guy's job to lead and the girl's to follow."According to him, to dance tango well,this was the most important rule to keep in mind, if not the only one.The fact was that,in spite of my friend's invitation, i never went to the class again, with no good reason. Upon reflection, I guess I was unconsciously against the idea of a girl's being a passive follower at that time, or just against the way the principle was put.Anyway,my tango teacher said nothing like "the guy would take the lead in order to make the girl shine bright."Had he said that, things might turn out to be different, at least for me.

    By comparing these two cases,yours and mine,again i see the importance of successful communication (here i take the teachers as leaders)."Leadership is all about communication,"that's no exaggeration.To get his vision across, a good leader should be sensitive to the various communication modes preferred by different followers.Then he'd decide what is the proper level of information disclosure for different subgroups and what communication strategy to employ.For some, the leader only need to tell them "the guy lead and the girl follow,"and it will do.For me, it will work better if the leader explains the rationale behind--"to make the girl shine bright."

  3. Very interesting comparison between salsa and leadership relationships!! I studied abroad in Argentina and while in South America, I traveled to Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile. And I must admit in the midst of “studying” I made sure to embrace the culture and what better way than through dance (in Brazil forro, Uruguay salsa, and of course Argentina and the tango). It is true that the guys lead but they do so with the intention of not being a good leader to make themselves look good but more importantly to make the girl look good as well. In the end, everyone sees a pair that can really dance and it is captivating to just stand and watch them.
    While in Brazil, I was dancing with a friend and although he was leading, it seemed as if the dance was all about me. In the end, I felt more confident about how I was dancing and wanted to try new moves (I have to say, I enjoyed the spotlight as well). Because I was more confident, I actually started leading the dance at times. This exemplifies the leadership relationship, in which the act of dancing is similar to doing leadership as Rost describes. It shows that both my friend and I were leaders and followers in the same dance. It is clear that if my friend was strongly opposed to me taking the lead, the dance would have suffered. It is important for leaders to understand that they can be followers in certain situations and at certain times in the leadership process. In the end both followers and leaders benefit from the relationship.


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