Dancing and organizations depend on leaders and followers to create magic with each interaction. It doesn’t happen by chance. Think about how each dance role plays in your organization and how experience may impact your results.

If you go to a dance, everyone sizes up how many leaders and followers are there. Imbalances lead to people sitting out and feeling disengaged. Sometimes you get lucky and find a switch hitter – someone who can lead and follow. There are benefits to learning both roles, it helps you understand how the other person’s role interacts with your role.

The role of the leader is to navigate the steps, patterns or moves and give clear signals to the follower; the result is dancing in unison. It is something that takes time, skill, practice and patience.

Inexperienced leaders tend to send strong vs. clear signals which are seen as rough or forceful. Followers may decide not to dance with them because they get physically hurt or there is little enjoyment in being pushed or pulled across the floor.

The art of a light clear lead sometimes is innate – typically it takes learning how to balance gentleness and clarity. Some leaders never get there.

When a leader is learning to dance there can be a deafening silence because the next step or move is top of mind. Once muscle memory takes over, the steps flow naturally though not necessarily in the same sequence.

There are experienced leaders who will continue to follow the same patterns they learned without deviation and others who will integrate steps and patterns interchangeably. These cues are signs of their leadership style – controlled, methodical and dependable or flexible, experimental and fun.

A follower has an equally difficult role. You might think how tough is it to follow? After all, isn’t it dependent on how good the leader is? Not necessarily.

An inexperienced follower may try to take control and back lead, especially if they think the leader is struggling or gives a weak signal. The follower thinks they are helping the leader, but they are not.

A good follower trusts their partner and does not try to anticipate what the next move is because if they are wrong there is a disruption in the connection.

There can only be one leader on the floor for the partnership to work, otherwise there are mixed signals. Sometimes you have to let the leader stumble or make a weak signal; it is only then that they realize their signals are being misinterpreted.

Experienced followers do not put up resistance when the leader is trying to execute a pattern of steps; in fact, they willingly use their own energy and movement to get to the right place.

The highly sought after followers are “light on their feet”; allowing leaders to flawlessly execute patterns that the follower does not know. The partnership creates magic because of the trust in one another.

On Wednesday, Elephants at Work will be hosting the Carnival of HR, join us.