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.

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