Actually I’m a dance dad, but the title “…lessons from a dance Dad,” just looked too weird. But really, many of you would likely be familiar with the show “Dance Moms” and the craziness you see (if you haven’t tuned in, tune in once!) All that to say that I spent many week-ends watching my daughter dance, in fact this is the first fall in a long time she isn’t dancing. Yes, she did really well, but what has struck me thinking back, were the parallels I saw between competitive dance and authentic leadership – really!
The competitive dance year always started with a school kick-off where the season was described in terms of outcomes for the dancers and the school alike, along with some goals to drive towards, not the least of which was nationals. Thinking back I wanted to point out some leadership “maxims” I’ve been reminded of as I relive the life of a dance dad.
Leaders set goals that stretch their teams.
We entered each competitive season with the goal of doing well at nationals. As each competition wound up, the dancers were encouraged to enjoy the success, but at the same time reminded that all could improve. Each dancer was stretched to see areas for improvement, and as such the bar was never lowered, if anything, raised.
Setting stretch goals can be inspirational and motivating to staff if done correctly. As leaders we need to ask WHY people currently are resistant to these goals. Most likely we will find many examples of how leadership behaved in the past, when these goals were not met. Did people get disciplined, not receive compensation? Many people have learned through management behavior that stretch goals are not good for them. We need to change that behavior. If a team is charged with 50% improvement and achieves 40% we should celebrate!
Leaders position their teams for success by ensuring someone is paying attention to the details.
I’ve learned through observation, that successful dance teams have someone paying attention to the details. Are the props positioned exactly right? Are the costumes perfect? Do the routines look exactly the same every time? Someone needs to be accountable for these answers, and it is paying attention to them that best positions really good dancers to project the best image.
If you are a leader, you have some key leadership skills – you are likely excellent at most things strategic and creative, but perhaps you also have a low tolerance for routine tasks and are disorganized. But success in a dynamic working environment often requires both big-picture skills as well as attention to detail. Many leaders are the ones who grasp concepts quickly and understand abstract principles easily; and thus, they might have picked up a few bad habits in school when they found they didn’t need to devote as much time to studying.
Unfortunately, not everything in our work life is conceptual. And in many fast-paced corporate environments, paying attention to details and not letting things slip through the cracks is paramount to success. If the details bog you down, outsource them! The first thing to do is to decide what only you can do and what can be done by others. Perhaps you write draft articles and someone else proofreads and edits them. Maybe you design the strategy, but a teammate carries it out.
Either way – Effective leadership skills involves setting the bar high and positioning your team to succeed!