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An Unfolding Series of Pit and Peak Experiences

The Dance of Leadership

A healthy community is like a dance, with different dancers stepping forward to take the lead at different times, and others following those leads.  Even followers are leaders, as we lead ourselves along paths or sequences illuminated by those who we consciously or unconsciously agree to allow lead us.  A leader creates a safe space within which others can more effectively recognize and express their magnificence.

These are some of the insights that emerged for me over the weekend, as I participated in a leadership training course (LT1) offered by the Mankind Project.  As with other MKP trainings in which I've participated, I don't want to reveal the specifics of any of the exercises -- as that may diminish the impact for any future trainees -- but will elaborate further on some of the results (for me).

The notion of leadership as a dance arose as I noticed that all of the participants are leaders[-in-training], and recognized that if none of us was willing to step back at times -- and allow others to step forward -- little would be accomplished.  As I became more conscious of this dance, and who was stepping forward in different contexts, I ruminated on what distinguishes a leader, and wanted to be able to encompass a range of leaders from Ghandi to Hitler. I arrived at the following definition of leadership:

Leadership is the modeling and communication of passionate commitment to an inspiring goal, principle or path.

Throughout the weekend, I was reminded of related wisdom shared by others, including Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Dee Hock and Dan Oestreich

In the Prelude to Oriah's book, The Dance, she asks some provocative and insightful questions, including:

What if it truly doesn't matter what you do but how you do whatever you do?

What if you knew that the impulse to move in a way that creates beauty in
the world will arise from deep within and guide you every time you simply
pay attention and wait?

These help me remember that it doesn't necessarily matter whether I am leading others, but that in leading my self, I stay fully conscious and true to my self, and that it is in trusting my own instincts that I can lead my self -- and others -- most authentically.

I've written about Dee Hock's inspiring principles on Chaordic Leadership before.  His insights into power, listening and judgment repeatedly came to mind over the weekend, and his prescription for leadership was resonating deeply for me:

Lead yourself, lead your superiors, lead your peers and free your people to do the same. All else is trivia.

I also had occasion to practice his advice for recognizing, admitting, correcting, learning from and rising above mistakes over the weekend, as I became painfully aware of how much of my father's patterns of leadership in marriage and parenthood I have adopted.  Although my father had many wonderful and admirable qualities -- many of which I hope I am perpetuating -- there are other characteristic that I have unconsciously adopted.  I renewed my commitment to making mistakes wakefully.

Dan Oestreich, an inspiring leadership coach (and friend), has shared many insights into the gold and shadows of leadership in his Unfolding Leadership blog.  Many of them were reverberating through me during the weekend.  Perhaps most poignantly, I was ever more aware of the path on which he has helped me embark toward my unfolding radiance.  I will invoke yet another element of Oestreichian inspiration, and apply the representation of a möbius strip, which I first used in ruminating on preaching what I want to practice, to the paradox of leadership (and followership):


There were other sources of wisdom invoked by the leaders of the leadership training, including

A quick search of Amazon reveals that there are other books related to the dance of leadership, including

For the moment, however, I am content to follow the beat of my own, inner drummer, dancing with the shadows and gold that were illuminated for me over the course of the weekend.

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