Argentine tango is a dance of close embrace and improvisation. The two dancers are ‘leader’ and ‘follower’. The leader in a male/female couple is usually the man. But we live in modern times, and tango can be danced by m/f, m/m or f/f couples. It’s true that it takes two to tango, but you don’t have to specify which two! And either partner may take the lead – it just needs to be agreed in advance!
On the dance floor, the leader should respond to the music, and his partner, and the circulation of the other dancers, and indicate (principally by change of weight and orientation of shoulders) the steps or figures that he is inviting the follower to take. This is the “lead”.
So …… the ‘lead’ is an invitation, not an order! The follower has the choice to ‘accept’ the lead and perform the figure indicated, or may perform some other step or figure than the leader expected. Sometimes the follower does something unexpected that actually works very well, and the good leader leaves enough room for the follower to surprise the leader with greatness.
When things go adrift, poor leaders blame the follower for not doing the ‘right’ (i.e. what they thought they were signalling) steps.
The wise leader knows that it is never (well, only exceptionally rarely) the follower’s fault that the dance goes wrong. If the lead was not clear, just exactly what is it that makes this the follower’s fault? If the follower is inexperienced, it is the leader’s responsibility to dance simple figures that are within the competence of the follower. Yes, push the boundaries a little – so that you take the follower just beyond the point of their comfort zone into a place of exhilaration and excitement – but so that in reality the follower has little choice but to exceed their own expectations in the dance whilst all the time feeling cherished and held by the leader.
When this works, the dance is truly wonderful. And isn’t ‘leading’ in business much the same?
“As on the dance floor, so in life!”
Christopher Head is a Director of Irenicon Ltd, a specialist employment law consultancy.
Tel: 08452 303050 Fax: 08452 303060 Website : www.irenicon.co.uk