Tango and the Art of Leading and Following

Do you notice that you have patterns or habits of behaviour that show up again and again?  And not just in the same situations, but across many areas of your life?  For example, do you take control of situations at work, with your partner, kids, friends, parents without thinking about it?  Or do you allow others to lead you, taking a passive role in decision making and taking action in family situations, friendships and with work colleagues?

Have you noticed for example how your organisation in book-keeping and completing your tax return shows up in your wardrobe, your kitchen and in the garden?  How does your gardening influence your patience and care for things or allowing time for growth and development of colleagues, clients, ideas, even yourself and loved ones?  Perhaps your yoga practice leads to calmer driving or more enquiry about your health and listening to your body?  Or maybe you notice that your creativity and impulsivity used to such good affect in writing, art and sky-high and out of the box thinking, make it hard for you to settle into doing paperwork and keeping the house in order?

Apply lessons from any task or hobby and see how those qualities show up in your life in other ways. Having recently taken up Tango, I am beginning to see how I do Tango mirrors how I do other areas of my life. And how qualities that Tango asks of me are familiar or unfamiliar.  And how I might apply them more broadly to enhance the quality of my life.

Leading and Following

For example, in any partner dance, there is a leader and follower.  Someone has to create the opportunity for movement and direction while the other adapts to that and flows with it.  There is a misconception that the man leads and the woman follows only.  In reality, they co-create a magical dance.  At one moment, the man leads and the woman follows.  In the next, the roles are reversed.

Tango is a magical dance of leading & following. Where are you leading & following in your life?

This is definitely true of Tango in my experience.  The man may guide and invite his partner to a certain position or movement, but how she goes there and performs the technique is open to her feeling, mood and emotion in that moment.  How you lead influences how she follows.  Once your invitation is taken, you both find yourselves in a new place and the man leads again.

Strong leadership gives her freedom to express herself.  While ambiguous leading leaves her unable to own her moves fully.  Nor does over-bearing leadership allow the woman her freedom either. You can only co-create a beautiful dance if one takes ownership of the leadership and the other to own the following role.  The follower must take responsibility for her role, as well as the leader being responsible for leading through intention, passion and direction with his body in movement, intention and energy.  And then the roles reverse again, and the cycle endlessly continues.

Where does this show up in your life?

The ease with which you lead and follow shows where your patterns and habits lie.  Are you a follower or a leader?  Of course, it is context dependent.  But what feels most familiar to you?  I feel more comfortable following and taking ownership of that.  That can be a huge asset as a life coach as I follow my client’s agenda both within the session and throughout the arc of the coaching relationship.  However, I have to be able to lead in coaching as well, setting boundaries, coaching fiercely and courageously as I champion my client’s strengths, ambitions and visions for a fulfilling and purpose-driven life.

Leadership

Tango is a great opportunity to learn the art of leadership.  To lead and be sensitive to my partner’s balance, poise and direction.  To be clear with my intention so that she is in no doubt where we are going, she can trust my direction and willingly follow without fear. Leadership requires safety.  And all this transmitted through the body without words.  Tango first and foremost is about the body in motion.  The embodiment of leadership- trust, vision, inclusion, fierce courage, communication and listening.  This I bring more and more into my coaching as I learn to lead and follow as required in the coaching conversation.  When coach and client get this right, something magical happens.  Suddenly, the whole becomes greater than the sum of the parts and the partnership is taken on a journey they both feed, and feed from.  This synergy is the probably the pinnacle of co-active coaching, where true transformation occurs for both coach and client.

And this is what happens in Tango as well.  Partners get lost in the moment of flow, balance and music.  For a moment, if you are lucky as a beginner.  I have been lucky enough to experience this moment a number of times.  And then, there is the prolonged moment, which I have only seen other couples enjoy, in which they are lost in the magic and beauty of the dance.

Followship

And what of the art of followship?  In Tango, the skill is to be open to the moment as it unfolds.  To feel the next opportunity present itself and move into that void as the leader invites you into it.  Notice the receptivity in your body and willingness to move with it- this is the follower taking ownership of their part of the dance.  This is taking responsibility for the follower’s role and allowing the leader to lead with confidence, trust and acceptance.  In coaching, my experience is that there is an identical mirroring.  I feel what my client feels in their body and that can be a powerful message that directs the coaching into new and unexplored territory.  There is fruitful learning here.  And, I may notice something in my body that the client has missed in theirs, possibly raising awareness of what is happening for them and offering new insight into their process.

How do you lead and follow?

So, what is your pattern of behaviour? If you find yourself falling habitually into leading or following, it may mean you are taking on these roles unconsciously.  Maybe leading or following feels safe to you?  But you may not do so consciously, intentionally, purposefully and with choice.  Being at choice is the beauty of the dance and it is the magic of coaching.  Freedom and choice are two of the joys of life.

How would life be different if you were more conscious in your leading and following?  What impact would it have on your personal and professional relationships?  How would it enrich your career, parenting, business, intimacy, teamwork and relationships?

For a limited period, I am offering FREE embodiment coaching both on-line and face to face.  As part of The Embodied Facilitator’s Course which I am attending in 2019, I am required to log practice hours in coaching on leader- follower, 4 elements and centring. The coaching could lead to:

  • greater awareness of your unconscious patterns that may be holding you back and limiting your potential
  • tools that would allow you to manage stressful situations more skilfully and therefore achieve more fruitful and effective outcomes
  • better understanding where your strengths and shortcomings lie for better leadership and management of yourself and others

If you’d like to know more about FREE coaching using the body, please e-mail me at david@potentialitycoaching.co.uk. Thank you.

The four elements in leadership and embodiment

The four elements model

In business, do you sometimes wish you could capitalise on your strengths more?  Would you and your business or career benefit from cultivating those strengths?  Are you unsure how to take advantage of your skills and talents more effectively?  Do you notice where your short-comings may lie and how they might impact you personally and professionally?  Would you like to be able to identify those areas you might develop so that you can take your self-employed business or career to the next level?

Would it be useful to have a model that allowed you to identify all these aspects of yourself, and others, and improve your business as a result?  The four elements model is such a framework, bringing ancient wisdom into modern relevance, benefiting people’s personal and professional lives.

The beauty of the model is that it allows you to identify the preferences, patterns and habits of yourself and others.  This empowers you to know where your strengths lie as well as the strengths of those around you.  It also shows your short-comings.  We even use the elements in our everyday language, as a hint to it’s intuitive descriptive qualities: “they have a fiery temper”, “what an air head”, “he is the salt-of-the-earth” and “she moves like water”.

All this to bring awareness to your short-term states and long-term dispositions and, consequently, develop your range and choice about how you respond to situations and circumstances.  Therefore, you also have the tools to build a team or community around you that is mutually supportive and nurturing.  As well as grow yourself and your impact in the world and on those you share your life with.

Ancient Wisdom

What I love about ancient wisdom is that it has stood the test of time and remains relevant, sometimes thousands of years after its origin.  For millennia, people have found ancient wisdom like the four elements useful, because it enhances their lives through the observation of human nature.  And it gives practical answers to everyday challenges, goals and questions.

The human condition has not changed much in all that time.  We may get caught up in the language and stories of the time and find them hard to understand: Ancient philosophers like Rumi, Lao Tzu or Plato; playwrights like William Shakespeare, Bernard Shaw and Andrew Lloyd Webber; American Indian Chiefs like Black Elk or Sitting Bull; the European Pagan stories popularised by The Brothers Grimm and; the Bible or Koran.  They may all seem impenetrable without deep study.  In fact, they simply share wisdom about human nature and our place in the world.  What’s great about the four elements model is that it is an intuitive description of human behaviour that you can test and play with from day one.  And, you can explore each element through your own embodiment, giving you real time feedback about what:

  • it feels like
  • seems familiar
  • you’d like more or less of
  • you could do differently
  • you would wish to leave behind
  • is no longer serving you
  • you long for

The four elements explained

The beauty of the four elements model is that it allows you to identify the preferences, patterns and habits of yourself and others

Throughout history, humanity has sought out answers to questions about the human condition.  Therefore, each culture in every age, has found a way to explain the human condition and help improve how we respond to life’s challenges.  For some it is a model with animals.  Others may use archetypes, spirits or gods.  An enduring model uses 4 elements (some use 5 or more like the Chinese) which are relatively organic and intuitive to interpret and are, to a degree, relatively subjective.  This is a model I have learned while studying The Embodied Facilitator Course (EFC- find out more here) and makes as much if not more sense than many of the models I have studied in the past.

So, let’s take each element in turn and see what you notice in your behaviour.  Which one or two elements are most familiar?  Do certain elements show up in particular situations/ contexts in life?  Did any feel unfamiliar to you?  Is there an element you long for?  Or one that you are sick of?  Pay attention to where the elements show up in significant relationships with others in your life: parents, partners, friends, colleagues, bosses etc.  How do these impact your relationships?  Are there patterns and preferences?  What are the strengths of your preferences?  What are the risks?

Earth

Earthy people like structure.  They like stability, reliability, control, things to be correct and organised.  Therefore, they like planning, management, budgeting and making lists.  You want your accountant or lawyer to be an earthy type.  However, too much Earth and things can get stuck and uninspiring.  Earthy people will maintain standards and hold to tradition.  When things get chaotic, the Earth quality will bring fairness, stability, reliability and self-control.

If you want to engage with an Earthy person, show them the facts.  Go slow and be structured and methodical.  In turn, they communicate in a factual and practical manner and will offer a supportive and reliable role.  If you find yourself lacking this element, slow down and get into the garden.  Literally, work with the Earth.  Take a walk in nature and breathe deep into the belly.  In excess of Earth?  Use qualities of the other elements, especially Water to create more movement, action and challenge some of that physical, mental and emotional rigidity.  Air can also bring a lightness, playfulness and creativity to counter Earthy heaviness and conformity.

Water

This element’s primary focus is relationship and acceptance.  Watery people love to listen, accommodate and care for others and support people.  They want loyalty and harmony in relationship.  Dislikes are rejection, conflict and loss.  They are great in feedback, networking, staff-care and HR roles.  You want your HR manager, coach and therapist to be a Watery person.  Too much Water and someone is a push over with weak boundaries and prone to collusion.  Empathy, connection, intimacy and relationship building are all Water qualities.

If you want to engage with a Watery person, take your time to listen and build the relationship.  Be sincere with your thoughts and feelings and show that you care.  Water’s communication style is empathic and relational.  In need of more Water?  Get to the sea or a river or failing that create comfort and soft lighting in the home.  Too much Water can be balanced with all the other elements, especially Earth to give structure and Fire to create and maintain boundaries.

Fire

What needs to be done?  When you need to take action, get results, prioritise and make tough choices, Fire is what you want to embody.  It will come as no surprise to hear that Fire is about directness, assertiveness, energising and doing more, being stronger and getting it done faster.  You want your boss or manager to have Fire.  If you are self-employed, you benefit from Fire too as you are the one who has to get the job done.  At their best, Fiery people will be challenging, name what needs to be said, be sincere and cut to the chase.  Too much Fire and you will rush and get pushy (perhaps to the point of brutality).

If you want buy-in from Fiery people, tell them what the results will be and the benefits.  Motivate to action through challenge, creating competition, setting goals, having a fast pace and being competent at what you do.  They will likely talk to you in a challenging and direct way.  Too much Fire can be balanced with Water for more relational integrity and with Earth for the rushing and potential burnout.  If you have too little Fire, get to the bright lights of big cities like London or New York or indulge in fiery activity like martial arts or tango.

Air

What is possible?  Sky-high, big picture thinking without a box is how Air people envision and strategise.  Leadership, innovation, brainstorming and creativity come from Air energy.  The light side of Air also leads to humour, flexibility, inspiration, and spontaneity.  Air types love freedom, creativity and perfection and fear boredom, imperfection and being controlled.  Use Air to over-come challenges, get clarity and come at things with lightness and fresh ideas.

Want to engage Air people?  Inspire, explore, study and learn with them, be original, use humour and pace.  Get them curious and fuel their joy of whatever you are trying to enrol them in.  Too much Air and people are vague, chaotic and silly.  Use the other elements to balance the excess Air, especially Fire for directness and Earth to bring order and calm.  Too little Air can be balanced with open space, bright lights, colour and chaos.  Head for the hills and mountains.  All this will inspire creativity, joy and excitement.

Four elements embodied

As you may have noticed in the descriptions, there are embodied qualities to each element.  You can evoke each one by moving, standing and sitting differently and even by subtly changing your posture.  This empowers you to bring more of what you think you might need to a situation or dial down what you might need less of.  We will be exploring the embodiment of the four elements in the next Be the Best Boss event in Cambridge on September 19th, 2019.

You will learn your particular mix of elements and be able to work out the mix of others.  This will allow you to better communicate with other people, teams and organisations. You will learn how to work with the elements through embodiment, to get better results in business situations as well as personal ones. The elements will give you more adaptability and versatility in work situations and work better with different people, groups and cultures, thus developing your leadership skills.  You can find further details here.

Over to you

What are your element preferences?  How do they impact on what you’re good at?  How do they limit you?  What elements would you wish to cultivate?  What impact could that have on your business, career and relationships?

Pass it on

If you found this blog interesting, please forward it to people you think might be interested too.  And if you know people in your network that might be interested in attending the Be the Best Boss workshop on leadership and embodiment, please send them the link (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/be-the-best-boss-you-ever-had-a-workshop-on-leadership-and-embodiment-tickets-67255712647).

Thank you.