Salsa and leadership. 2 words that we usually do not find in the same sentence….
What do salsa dancing and leadership have in common? Some of you may answer ‘Virginie’ as these 2 areas are 2 of my biggest passions. However, I would say that both areas actually have quite a lot in common.
I started to learn to dance salsa when I also started to have leadership roles… I strongly believe that salsa really helped me become a better person and a better leader as it gave me valuable leadership lessons that I would like to share with you…
Diversity / inclusiveness
When you dance salsa (or any other dance), you learn to deal with and embrace diversity. You’ll dance with people of different ages, from different backgrounds, different jobs, different nationalities, cultures and with people with different dancing styles!
Dancing brings together people from all walks of life. It’s a hobby and a passion that people from all backgrounds share. And by bringing people together, you learn to accept, respect others as well as enjoying all differences dancing brings.
In leadership, you need to accept and respect everybody. Everybody has something to offer, no matter where people come from, no matter their age, background, nationalities, gender, etc.
All great leaders know that having a diverse team or organization is key in being successful as diverse people offer diverse perspectives.
A strong leader is usually an excellent communicator. You need to be clear and precise in how you communicate. You need to take your audience into account. Whatever message you’re trying to share, you have to be as clear as possible so that there is no confusion. People have to know your values, what you stand for.
Same as with (salsa) dancing. When you dance, you communicate. You do not talk while dancing but you have to be clear in your communication. You have to indicate to your dance partner what to do, whether she needs to turn once, twice or more; whether she needs to turn right or left; whether you need to dance slowly or more quickly.
When you dance, you cannot hesitate and therefore need to be confident. Dancing helped me become more confident. When you dance, you have to stand tall, shoulders straight/open, just as you should do when you present something. Like dancing, if you hesitate, your partner will not be able to follow you properly.
As a leader, you need to be confident. You cannot want to inspire and motivate people if you are hesitant and/or show a weak body language. As a leader, you have to give clear directions. You need to have a vision so that people follow you. People need to know your values and what you stand for.
Dealing with change
Dancing salsa is an amazing place to learn to deal with change. On the salsa scene, you often dance with different partners. You dance to different music. And since dancing is an international language, you also learn to dance in different locations, different countries, etc. Change is a constant on the dancing floor, just like in life. As a leader, you need to be able to react and act quickly to changes. You know that things can change quickly and you need to be able to show flexibility and adapt to the new circumstances.
Dealing with rejection / with things that go wrong
Sometimes you want to dance with someone, but that someone wants to dance with someone else. Or the person is tired and wants a break. Or some people simply do not want to dance with you, either because they are intimidated or because they think you are not good enough for them. When you dance, you learn to deal with these rejections, You also learn how to deal with things that do not go as you were expecting it (for instance, someone you thought could dance well actually is just doing his/her own things and do not really care about their dance partner).
In life and business, you know that sometimes things do not go as planned. Projects get postponed, some team members resign or get a promotion, clients come and go etc. As a leader, you need to be able to deal with rejection. You know there is always a lesson to learn and that you should not take things too personally.
So when things go wrong or not as planned: just keep going! Every great leader knows that there is always something to learn in any situation.
The list of common items could go on…
To me, SALSA means: Succeed in the Adventures of Leadership and Self Assurance. (SALSA💃🏽).