Friday, July 24, 2009

leading through dance

I have to admit that I am a HUGE fan of the Fox TV show "So You Think You Can Dance?" Last night the show aired its 100th episode, and it was a great celebration. The dancing is always good; the judges are intelligent, supportive, and funny (picture the opposite of Paula, Randy, and Simon); the choreographers are first-rate; and I always get a little teary-eyed as my favorite dancers get voted off. What can I say...I am a sucker for this type of show.

A year or so ago, I read a book entitled "The Dance of Leadership: The Art of Leading in Business, Government, and Society," written by Robert and Janet Denhardt. The book provided a unique insight into how an understanding of the world of dancers can provide a basis for leadership. Several quotes are noted below:
  • Dance, in many ways, is an illusion. It is not something you can hold in your hand
  • A balanced or symmetrical placement of dancers on the stage, say in two rows on either side, gives the impression of stability or calm, whereas an unbalanced or asymmetrical arrangement imiplies movement or dynamism
  • The choreographer isn't working with a set of finite objects, but the ever-shifting, evolving relationships among people
  • Time and rhythm are concerned with movement from the past through the present, and into the future...leadership has to do with helping individuals and groups to understand time more completely, to know their role in the unfolding of events, and to organize their moments to attain a future they desire.
  • The relationship between simplicity and complexity is itself actually quite complex...making things simple does not mean ignoring the complexity of the topic at hand
  • Where does this fresh material come from?...they (choreographers) seek out the unknown, the unsettling, and the unfamiliar to keep their creative edge and a sense of newness..they do unusual things and go to new places and read things they usually don't and talk to people that they haven't before

My favorite section of the book is a quote from a introductory text in dance which states that "we must be willing to take risks, committed to the experience, and ready to be vulnerable and open to the self-discovery that is a natural product of the process. We must be willing to listen to others and to be generous with them. An active balance of self-fulfillment and response to others' needs has to be maintained. Basically we need the courage of our own impulses and responses qualified only by a healthy concern for the people we arw working with."

Perhaps leaders (and those who follow them) would be best served if leaders were required to take dance lessons...or read dance texts...or watch Fred Astaire/Ginger Rodgers movies...or attended the ballet more often...or better yet, to watch every Wednesday and Thursday nights "So You Think You Can Dance?"

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