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.