Post by Chrysty Beverley Fortner, contributing Women On Business writer
“Life’s a dance you learn as you go, sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow…” Many a country song asks the question and delivers a dump truck load of answers. My answer is ALWAYS, under any condition, no matter what the circumstance, do BOTH! There are times to take the lead, remain in control and when the song is over, bow and thank your partner. Then there are times to allow the situation to dictate the leader and gracefully twirl and curtsy when it’s over to the one who took the lead because your feet hurt so bad you needed to sit down anyway. The way I see it, I was in control in BOTH scenarios…but I learned when to take the lead and when to follow in dancing and in life.
An odd analogy, I know, but I taught country line-dancing at Disneyland in the early 90’s. Some of what I learned through teaching dance lessons I have carried with me throughout my days in business. You see, I was twenty-something, 5′ 2", and what others might describe as "bubbly." I was young and tiny and full of life. I didn’t pose a threat, but found myself "flirting" with the women to negate any preconceived notions they might have had. I needed HER to buy into the experience. I needed her to be in control. I needed her to lead the mood. So I would whisper in her ear, “he only thinks he’s leading,” then we’d giggle and across the floor we went.
In business every good leader surrounds herself with brilliant people…and sometimes we need to make our bosses feel they’re leading whether they are or not. But always, off the dance floor we appear to be in lock step. Having sour grapes is not attractive and does not bode well in business if we can’t show up to the dance in a cute pair of jeans, a smile on our face, wearing killer Stiletto’s.
Back then my objective was to create a bond with the wife first. Instinctively, I knew the men would have fun and do what men do, so I ignored them completely! My challenge was to engage the woman and give her an equally positive experience. My job was to make her look good and that made all the difference whether the night resulted in a great memory or a manure pile.
While line-dancing is not a life-altering activity, the lessons learned about creating allies with the wives have served me well. It’s not manipulation, it is smart business. So there are times now, leading is expected of me and it’s appropriate, but there are times, too, where I have to do my very best to make the rightful leader look good…and I follow (kinda) and enjoy the rhythm of the song. We all do it, we need to embrace it. We can’t resent it because sometimes our feet really do need a well-deserved break! So as you waltz across the office floor or the dance floor, be willing to stand in the wings until you know for certain whether you are leading or following. It’s okay to do both.
Very true! The focus on leadership is all very well, but listening and advising are (often overlooked) aspects of this.
Teaching line-dancing in Disneyland? What a great job!
Chrysty Beverley Fortner says
I had a blast! I was SO 90’s in the 90’s…it really was the happiest place on earth. Thanks for the feedback. We’ve got a good thing going here. C.