A couple of weeks ago, I attended a professional conference and presented a program there. I hadn’t submitted a proposal in some time, but decided that I needed to start again. I’ve realized that if I’m tired of sitting through ‘sit and listen’ presentations on the same old topics, I need to step out there and do something different. So I submitted a proposal to present ‘The Leadership Dance’ even though there was a possibility that no one would show up or like it if they did.
I’ve mentioned this workshop before (Stepped On Anyone’s Toes Lately) and in its full form it takes at least an hour and a half. I only had 60 minutes which meant I would not be able to do the full workshop. Instead I started by explaining the history of the workshop and its purpose of creating an opportunity for participants to experience the partnership aspect of leadership. I explained kinesthetic learning (briefly, it is learning by doing rather than by listening or reading). Kinesthetic learning is an appropriate style for this workshop since there is really only one way to learn to be an effective leader and that's by actually practicing leadership. Then I told them that they were the brave group who would choose to attend a session with the words lively, interactive, and dance in the description and asked them to move the chairs back against the walls.
There was a fair amount of nervous laughter at this point and one person actually left the room, but the rest stayed and were good enough sports to give it a try - though one person told me later he had been pretty resistant to the idea at first. For the next 30 minutes we had a dance lesson and each person had a chance to serve as a leader and as a follower and then we talked about their experiences. Based on their comments and evaluations, participants both enjoyed the session and learned something, so it was a successful endeavor.
I share this story for two reasons. First, when you do something that is unusual, you take the chance that some people will be resistant to the idea. However, while some people will walk away from the opportunity presented, others will hang in there. Of course, those who hang in there may not like it. But that's no reason to refrain from taking the chance. If we can just get past our fear that we'll look foolish or that people won't understand what we're trying to do, our possibilities to be creative, to teach, to lead will expand immensely.
This is, of course, the second reason to share this story. Some participants said they gained a new understanding of leading and following. Others commented that they would now try to find creative ways to do their work. Still others asked for further information about the exercises in the larger workshop. In other words, they were engaged in learning. I've presented the Leadership Dance many times to a wide variety of groups, some of which were very surprised by what they were expected to do. But as one person told me, they may joke about having had to dance, but they remember it and that's more than usually happens after a speech. Learning something new often requires the learner to be a bit uncomfortable; seems only fair that the teacher ought to be a bit uncomfortable sometimes too.
So what are you not doing because it's a bit risky? Is there a time or a place when you might just risk testing out that new way of doing things? After all, a significant part of leading is asking a group to go someplace or do something new; shouldn't leaders be willing to try something new as well?