Leadership Styles: It Takes Two to Tango

I’ve been doing some research on leadership styles and came across an interesting video on tango and leadership. It’s made by  Ira Chaleff, who wrote a book about the other side of leadership: The Courageous Follower. I think the dance of tango is a good metaphor for the close interaction between leaders and followers, and illustrates leadership styles.

Tango is a close, improvisational dance that requires excellence in both the leader and follower role. Here below, Chaleff has produced a video in which one of the leading tango practitioners in the US demonstrates ways in which following well brings out the creativity of the leader and, conversely, following poorly undermines the leader and the dance.

This video is entertaining to watch, and there are several good leadership style lessons embedded. The concept of followership is often ignored in  leadership materials. Chaleff tackles this important issue. The ways in which followers support leaders and interact with each other are useful for many of the leaders I coach who are working with teams.

What distinguishes an effective follower from an ineffective one is intelligent, responsible and enthusiastic participation in the pursuit of an organizational goal, according to Robert E. Kelly in a Harvard Business Review article from Nov.-Dec. 1988.

The movement away from command and control brings leadership styles that are more democratic and coach-like. The terms “shared leadership,” and “servant leader” are used to describe some of these new ways of interacting.

As an outgrowth of this movement, the flatter business organization requires more responsible followers. And let’s face it, just like everyone’s got a boss, everyone has to participate as a follower to some degree.

Responsible followers can help leaders stay on track and manage their decision-making processes in the right direction. But that takes a little courage to stand up and speak up at the right moment.

How’s your leadership style? Are you doing the tango… or just stepping on people’s toes?

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