I just got home from my first Zumba class. Zumba is a fitness program based on Latin-inspired dance and is apparently the world’s largest dance fitness program (I don’t know how impressive that actually is…). Their international slogan is “Ditch the workout, join the party,” which I have to admit is not only catchy, it’s true. This particular class was taught by a woman named Christy and while I walked into the room knowing little about Zumba, Christy’s presence, her “vibe,” told me everything I needed to know – just add 15 years to Julia Stiles in “Save the Last Dance.”
Christy walked to the front of the class, apologized for starting a bit late, and then proceeded to lead us through an hour of straight dancing. Even in a huge gym full of about 50 women (and 1 guy) she didn’t use a mic. In fact she didn’t say a word. Instead she lead the class strictly by doing it with us, relying on inviting facial expressions, exaggerated movements, and impressive anticipatory cues as she danced. The result? Well I had fun. I danced and sweated. I looked awkward and didn’t care. And the entire time I felt like Christy was personally inviting me to join this dance, guiding and preparing me, yes me!, for each new step…and I was in the farthest back corner of the room (the safest spot for newbies).
As a fitness teacher, her approach was different enough to stand out.
If I were teaching the class I know I’d want to be on the mic, like every other fitness teacher I’ve come across, relying on directions and words. I’d be correcting, instructing, walking around trying to help people. I’d be busy, well intentioned, and I’m sure seemingly successful. But I wouldn’t be as good as Christy.
I’m wondering what it would look like if all leaders put down the mic and started dancing. Not talking about the steps so others could process and perform them effectively and efficiently, but actually doing the dancing themselves. What if leaders learned how to keep dancing while helping people as they joined in? If leading was about inviting others as they find their own unique vibe, with their own personal twists and idiosyncrasies, while still keeping in tune with the larger dance.
Organic is such a trendy word. But this does feel like such an organic way to lead. It feels more honest and genuine. Like even if no one showed up Christy would still be there, doing her Zumba thing.
Leadership isn’t a role, a position, or a job title. It’s a posture, a way you live no matter the circumstances. You do what you do, always inviting other people to join you – helping them with all the vibrant facial expressions and preparatory cues you can muster. It’s a messier dance, less technical. And it’s far from perfect. But it’s beautiful and fun and full of exploration and wonder and discovery.
One of my favorite YouTube videos is “Where the Hell is Matt?” I have never thought to connect this video with leadership. But maybe that’s exactly what Matt’s doing here – showing us what it looks like to be a good leader.