Not everyone will respond to your leadership.  No matter how good you are, there will be skeptics.  Leadership is a human endeavor and humans have choices.  Still, it’s your duty to find a way to lead them. It’s the leadership dance.

No matter how big your organization, your message, direction, and motivations flow through a handful of people and leadership is like dancing; it is accomplished one partner at a time. I’m not talking about square dancing, line dancing or break dancing but the kind where you drum up your courage, look someone in the eye and ask: “Will you dance with me?”

Great dancing requires a mix of physical, mental, emotional and social skill.  Great dancers know they aren’t just spinning around the floor; they are inviting another on a journey for a song or two.  It is a negotiation of trust.

Inexperienced dancers are awkward. They become consumed with their own moves and sometimes forget the dance is done together.  They pull when they should push and they push when they should pull and get frustrated when even a great partner stumbles following their lead.

Experience on the other hand, makes a difference.  It builds confidence, creates agility and develops grace.  Experienced dancers develop a feel for each partner and adjust their own movements to ensure they stay in step.

In the end, great dancers make their partner feel as if the two have achieved something wonderful together.  Their partners don’t feel pushed or pulled.  They don’t feel like they’ve had to do more than their fair share of the task.  When done right, the experience is exhilarating and doesn’t feel like work.

The same is true in leadership.  Great leaders understand that leading is a human endeavor where momentum builds one relationship at a time.  They know that good outcomes are their responsibility and find a way to get the most from others without tripping them up.  Regardless of their partner’s ability, they have a feel for what it takes to move each toward excellence and find a way to build trust in the process.  They find a way to stir up that magic where progress, no matter how difficult, feels both worthy and worthwhile.

So if you are struggling to lead a team member, don’t take offense.  Remember to adjust your steps and dance.

Thoughts?

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