Hi all – My apologies for the two-month hiatus, but unfortunately other priorities in life meant I had to step away from this blog for a bit. That said, weekly posts are back on! Please read, enjoy, post your comments, and spread the word to other dancers! Thanks – Eric
I taught a class this week on how to communicate with a partner. The idea is that communication works both ways, regardless of whether you are a leader or follower. However, while the tools and methods are the same, the context and use of these tools may differ greatly. We had a brief conversation in class about the expectations followers have of leaders and vice versa, and it was one of the most interesting I’ve had in any class.
The leaders in general expected followers to, well, follow – to pay attention, to follow momentum, and to follow through. The followers in general expected leaders to make them feel comfortable – no arms leads, dance at the appropriate skill level, and adjust to the follower’s physical capabilities.
What’s most interesting to me is how these expectations reinforce a certain dynamic: leaders speak, while followers listen. Leaders say, “I’ll tell you what to do, you just have to do it.” Followers say, “Tell me nicely, and I’ll do it.” Unfortunately, in my opinion, this often means that partners detach from one another: leaders don’t pay attention to followers and followers only pay attention when they want to (or have to). Except I don’t think this is how we want it to be, or how we think it should be.
Effective leaders are excellent listeners, responsive to the needs and interests of those they lead. And effective followers aren’t just passive bystanders, but proactive and vocal participants. Imagine what this dance would look like if leaders expected followers to participate more actively, and if followers expected leaders to listen and pay more attention to them? What would the dance look like if leaders listened and gave more opportunities for followers to participate and if followers proactively communicated and engaged their leaders?
What are your expectations for the opposite role? And what do you think expectations should be in order to create the ideal dance?