As you dance through life are you aware of whether you tend to lead or follow? What’s the distinction for you? How do you know you are leading or following? How does it feel?
Yesterday I danced 5 Rhythms. It was a baking hot afternoon; the sweat was pouring and the beats were smoking.
And in the middle of it all I found myself dancing with another. We smiled. We felt the joy in our dance. I was dancing. She was dancing. We were dancing with each other. Mirroring. Leading and following.
We didn’t realise until later that we were sharing the lead. Sometimes her; sometimes me. It was fluid. There were no edges to it. We didn’t have to make a decision. It just happened. And it felt like fun. Playful and light.
And then we had to choose to lead or to follow, one or the other.
First I led.
It felt pressurised. I felt responsible. I needed to build her trust to follow, to feel safe. I felt bad when she resisted. Though I did shield her from two collisions, taking the full force of them myself!
But when she allowed herself to move according to my lead it felt great – as long as she was smiling. If it felt like I was forcing her I felt clumsy and sorry.
Next it was my turn to follow.
This felt easier for me. I was very comfortable in my trust. She had a great way of steering me away from danger – grabbing my index fingers and pulling! I felt safe.
However later she told me that sometimes I would want to go my own way, that I seemed determined to go in a particular direction. And like a good leader she allowed me my freedom.
How we dance is how we live, how we conduct ourselves. Yesterday I learned that whether leading or following the art is in allowing; and remembering that we are both.
Beware all you journal writing enthusiasts. You might just get such clarity and independence of thought through your reflective writing practice that people begin to turn to you for your advice and wisdom. They might even begin to nominate you as a leader in their cause.
This is because once you develop a journaling practice of your own you will be engaging in such powerful conversations with yourself that you will discover great truths and inner resources you never knew you had. Plus you’ll be able to articulate your thoughts and feelings about issues that are important to you because you will have practised doing so in your journal.
An important asset of a respected leader is integrity. In whatever context, be it work, community or personal, we want to be able to gain the trust of those around us. By taking up our journals and documenting our points of view over a period of time we begin to see our own thread of integrity running through all the things we bother to write about. We get to know very clearly what our views are, and we see how we must live in order to be true to our innermost moral compass.
Another valuable asset of our journal writing practice is that, honestly done, it enables us to recognise and accept our vulnerabilities. The journaling space is safe in that it is for our eyes only. We don’t need to protect our delicate ego in this place, and we can have a rest from bigging ourselves up. With the pressure off we can take a genuine look at ourselves and treat ourselves gently, without beating ourselves up about this or that perceived weakness. A great leader is aware of their vulnerable side, and, crucially, is not afraid to show it.
Thirdly a great leader is aware of themselves and others. They are able to reflect on their own impact and on the reasons why others might behave in certain ways. This can lead to great magnanimity and tolerance, vital attributes of the best leaders, and key enablers in the practice of servant leadership.
If you’re not already a leader, be prepared to become one. If you are already a leader, don’t be surprised if your style changes once you’ve been journaling for a while.