What’s your leadership style? How often have you stopped to reflect on the effectiveness of your style? Is your reality and your image of your leadership one in the same?
I recall a former boss of mine who often stated that she needed to “get off the dance floor and onto the balcony”. She wanted to be an effective leader and this was a style she related to. How does this saying relate to leadership style? To explain this let us visit a typical dance.
Imagine there is a dancefloor and that the venue is your business or department. The dancers are your team members and the dancing is their skills and performance.
The first thing you should notice is the range of dancing styles being displayed (competence, individuality). You will certainly have a number of people who just watch on because they say they can’t dance (low skills, inexperience). You will hear a range of chat up lines of people wanting to engage with others (influencing, engaging, collaboration). You will have those that are “dressed to impress” and those who quietly look on (introverts, extroverts). In amongst all of this you might have some disorderly conduct (conduct issues). You may also have some drunken souls who aren’t able to do much at all (performance issues). If the music and the vibe are right, it might create some new dancing moves which feeds on itself (flexibility, motivation, adaption). All in all it’s a busy night with a lot happening.
If you were a leader who stayed on the dancefloor your focus might be on the dancing and trying to get everyone dancing the same way. Or maybe your focus is the on ensuring everyone is talking to everyone about everything (no room for dancing). Unfortunately, you might fail to notice anything else until it blows up in your face.
Or you might be so focussed on looking for, controlling, and solving all the problems with the venue, with the dancers, the dancing, or with the music, that you don’t notice the quality of the dancing that is going on all around you.
Being a leader is a tough gig and it is hard to get off the dancefloor. My former boss would agree to this. But why is it so important to be on the balcony? Because if you are on the dancefloor it means you are not leading.
The balcony affords you are great place to observe your own leadership qualities. You will see great dance quality and quantity, the result of good training and developing. You will notice that the people will be comfortably chatting to each other, working together to create new dance moves because you have encouraged great participation. You will see interventions happening between the dancers when someone isn’t dancing right because everyone understands and aligns with your standards and expectations. You will feel a positive environment that is motivating and engaging because you have set your people up to do their very best dancing.
So how can a leader take the steps up to the balcony and off the dance floor?
If our leader wants to stand on the balcony then she should consider
- Providing dance lessons so that everyone can do the basic dance moves well.
- Encouraging and providing one on one coaching for those who don’t feel confident to step out onto the dance floor.
- Limiting the amount of alcohol so that everyone is able to do the dances
- Developing those who haven’t the skills to chat up others, maybe share some stories of her own experiences and learning.
- Ensuring there are behaviour standards clearly placed at the door to the venue so that everyone understands what is expected of them
- Promoting and celebrating the many styles of the dancers, highlighting their uniqueness and involving them in the dance lessons.
- Selecting the types of music that she knows will provide the best vibe for new dance moves to develop
Are you a leader who finds the balcony an uncomfortable place to stand? Is it too far removed from the action? Does your confidence hold you back from climbing the stairs to that balcony? If you want to be a great leader you need to set your dancefloor up for success and leave the dancers to it.