In many ways dancers lead. We lead through our roles. We can demand the stage, represent our company, lead a ballet or be represented as the elite of our world. To the audience we lead by representation, through movement, acting, dominance and quality. We lead without saying a word, except for an interview here and there, the shaking of hands, and a few good conversations with supporters, donors, and board members. In all honesty, our careers are centralized around our technique, performance, and studio time. And all the extra stuff, is just an extra treat.
As dancers, the inevitability of our short careers coming to an end will have to be faced. Hopefully all in good reason, we will face a new path, a new career, or many new careers. According to an article, “New Leadership Directions,” by: James F. Kacerna, here are a few good things to think about as you continue to blaze your trail.
- Don’t Be Afraid to Break the Rules: Make mistakes but learn from them. Sometimes mistakes come from “going for it,” just like going for something in ballet, falling, getting back up and fixing it.
- Know Thyself: Make a positive image of yourself, enhance your own visibility, and know where your strengths and weaknesses fall.
- Be Nonlinear: Know that in fact, radical careers shifts are becoming normal and even desirable. Yes, dancers are not alone! But logically, companies are more in favor of adaptability, cross-functionality, people skills, street smarts, and a rock solid people focus, than a specialization of trade.
- Make Chaos a Friend: Today’s best leaders embrace change as an opportunity for growth.
- Maintain Work/Life Balance: Work hard and play hard, but most importantly, seek a healthy, BALANCED life. Set priorities.
- Stay Connected: This is so important, more than we sometimes think! Developing and nurturing relationships are the most important actions leaders take to advance. Don’t allow yourselves to be fickle.
- Always Keep Your Options Open: Stay positive, be open for opportunity, and accept complete responsibility for blazing your path.
All in all, as dancers – even though we portray most of our leadership through movement (or seemingly so)- have an advantage in this newer aged leadership edge. We practice all of these skills, without a college lecture or a person telling us “HOW REALLY IMPORTANT these things are,” because we have become dancers – and so we are JUST expected to be all these things. But maybe as dancers, we need someone to remind us – to keep us on track, to get us back on track, or just inspire us to do our work! To help us embrace our time on and off the stage. And for all the future leaders out there, if you do these things for yourself, then you’re only going to encourage and promote the people that you lead.