It’s true to say that everything I learned about leadership and human development in theory, I first experienced through dance.
I started my dance career as a young boy at the age of 13. It was the one thing where I channeled all my energy. It has heavily effected my grades in school but let’s not go in to the topic of focus at this point.
I spent the vast majority of my teenage years practicing handstands, spinning on my head and all the other moves a breakdancer does. I didn’t know that, while I was working on becoming a “breakdancer”, I actually practiced leadership capacities.
I basically practiced my way into being FIT TO LEAD.
I started teaching dance after only one year practicing my basics and I remember one very impactful moment that stuck with me ever since. When I was 14 years old I taught a group of kids who were probably 10 years old at that time. After teaching them for a couple of months their parents started calling me and asked me where I bought that base cap I was always wearing. I had NO idea. I had to ask my mum. (The first superhero I got to know. But more about her at a later time.)
Long story short. The next Saturday the kids showed up for practice wearing exactly the same outfit as I was wearing. Literally, from head to toe. Same shoes, trousers, t-shirts and base cap as I was wearing. I was so proud. Event though I was only 14 years old and a child myself, I had such an impact on those kids such that they took immediate and effective action. I had influence. Or in other words, I had a leadership with them.
The connection between fitness, movement, presence in a room and leadership goes back so many years. At some point in time, “Fit to lead” literally meant being physically capable of leading a community or group of people.
There has always been a connection between characteristics like strength, discipline, perseverance, willpower, patience, energy, humility and the ability to lead.
Regardless of what type of leadership we talk about, be it personal leadership and your self-development, organizational leadership inside your job or leadership in your marriage and family, no one is going to follow me if I lecture them about my principles.
They will only follow if I demonstrate the ability to lead.
I believe from my core that leadership is something that can’t be taught in a classroom setting. It is something that is intangible like the ability to love. Like love, leadership is something that is seen by examples, learned with patience and grown through humility. And you are never done learning. The moment I think I know it all, in either domain – love or leadership – I start failing.
I know, some of you are thinking, ‘what on earth is he talking about’. Maybe you still believe that leadership is a position or a title. It might be difficult to wrap your head around what I am trying to say if this is your disposition. I believe there are millions of people in this world who have no clue whatsoever on how to love or how to lead.
But let’s not get to ‘preachy’ here.
As the saying goes, “True leaders lead from the front.” Leadership is all about setting an example so that others can understand the path that they must follow. It is about being seen; being experienced.
So what are some good things we can look at in order to become more FIT to lead?
With FIT I don’t necessarily mean going to the gym three times a week. Fit to lead has to do with the capacities you embody that allows you to lead.
Let’s take punctuality as an example. [OMG my German-ness comes through. Hahaha…] Among others, being on time is very closely connected to discipline. Having the capacity to apply discipline when needed is important for being fit to lead. So how are we going to build the capacity for being on time? “Good question, Sebastian.”
There is of course no one size fits all! It requires listening and to find the right practice to build the capacity needed. But let’s give you some examples first:
- Having a regular costume party with kids in your family or volunteering in a kindergarten is a great way to build playfulness.
- Joining a Salsa course to learn how to move can become a game changer for your capacity to be flexible. Dancing with someone else also allows you to practice openness and vulnerability.
- Signing up for a gym and having a very good work out on a regular basis with your personal training app coach-carter will do magic to your discipline.
- High intensive interval training (HIIT) will help you to deal with stress, while preparing and running a marathon is building the capacity to persevere.
- An all-time favorite is sitting down a couple of times a day, focusing on breathing. This is what I call grounding yourself.
And my absolute favorite: breakdance.
As I said in the beginning, before I learned anything about leadership, emotional- and social-intelligence or human development in theory, I first experienced it very much in my face through my now 18 years of experience in breakdancing.
To be very frank with you, at the time when I started working with people to become who they needed to be in order to get what they wanted to have, I had no credentials on paper that would have qualified me to do that.
But what I had was awareness of what was going on. I realized, I was good at reading between the lines. Listening to what people didn’t say. And to be blunt, I was pretty good at looking right through the bullshit stories people vomited at me when they didn’t get what they said they wanted.
For quite some time I was wondering where this capacity came from. Today I know what is responsible for my capacity to be in your corner. It is what I learned while becoming and being a professional dancer.
I started dance when I was 13 years old. I spent far more then Malcolm Gladwell’s 10.000 hours practicing my movements and as it is with learning how to walk, I fell flat on my face quite often. The only thing that helped me to grow, was falling in love with practice, being ok with failing, having the mindset of a student and asking myself again and again: What do I do that works and what do I do that doesn’t? How can I do it differently? And, who can help me to see what I can’t see yet?
As of today, I have taught dance to thousands of people. Which means that now I had the job of developing the same capacity in other people. The truth is I can’t give anyone the movement they want to learn, like shopping in a supermarket, but I can help everyone to become self-aware to see what is working, and what isn’t. So that they themselves can find their own way of doing the same move.
For a long time I thought dance was just my previous career but today I understand that dance is the foundation on which I have built my practice of being the person that does whatever it takes to have you win.
So, what does being fit to lead mean?
As we all know, patience, humility, discipline, perseverance, willpower, energy and the ability to lead are all things that are gained through practice. It means working on personally embodying the capacities needed in order to lead.
So what capacity do you need in order to advance your ability to lead?
Thanks for reading. Much love.