Remember our previous article on leading a team effectively? We know that there is no one right way to lead a team or be a leader in general, but we also know that you can never have enough tips on leadership. What better way to get more insight than to pick the brains of actual team leaders in the community? We reached out to a few (of the many) directors of teams in the community and asked them to share a few pieces of advice on how to be a great leader. Here's what they had to say:
Play to the strengths of your dancers, particularly when building sets. Learn about what your dancers excel at, and create a set based off of those strengths.
What really helped me is connecting to the individuals on the team on a personal level. We're all more than just dancers, we're all people with our own strengths, weaknesses, personal struggles, and experiences. By knowing everyone more personally, it provides me with a stronger sense of communication and trust with my family. This trust, in my opinion, is what helps me lead confidently.
As it's beautifully said in the article, being a leader puts you in a vulnerable place where criticism is likely to come. I think it's a leader's responsibility to take the criticism and apply it as necessary without the attachment of emotion or ego. An openness to communication and honesty as well as the ability to view criticism as a chance to grow and not a personal attack is key to growing as a leader and creating a better experience for all the members.
Once a team sees that a leader is open to criticism and change, they'll be more open to voicing their qualms instead of holding it inside themselves, and thus, a happier team! Creating spaces for members to voice their concerns through evaluations, a position dedicated to being a liaison between members and leadership, or even anonymous online input boxes is also important for an open channel of communication!
And sometimes, you have to stop taking yourself so seriously.
Know when to ask for help and when not to. Recognizing that you are struggling is key to being a leader and acknowledging help is the next best thing. Asking for too much help, however, can make a leader look lazy or bossy. Moderation and trust in the end is most important.
Everyone has made it onto your respective dance team for a reason, so there is a whole lot of talent ready at your disposal. Don't hesitate to give team members an opportunity to take the helm, whether it be choreographing, assisting with costumes, cleaning, etc. You have to remember that you can't do it all, and that you have an arsenal of 40 or so eager dancers willing to learn.
Being a leader encompasses many things, especially within a dance team/community. Of course there's always lead by example, patience, communication etc which are all viable traits. Although, one thing you can't teach is how to make relationships & care. Being a leader really goes beyond dance and starts with caring for people and their well-being/growth. A leader that executes that combined with their knowledge of dance will find the byproduct of amazing dancers with a heart full of passion. At the end of the day do your best to create great dancers but better people.
These three things separate us from being leaders at rehearsal and friends outside. It’s definitely possible being both by putting the betterment of the team as a whole at rehearsal and an individual outside. Also, never stop learning.
I think to be a successful leader, you genuinely have to care about the people you lead, about their well being, about their life, about their growth. If they know you respect and care about them, the more likely they are to follow. One thing that sticks out to me is the leadership of Culture Shock. I've been on many teams where if I miss a rehearsal it's like "where were you? what kept you from being at practice. Now you wont be in a piece."
When I miss rehearsals on Culture shock, they tell me "Oh man, we missed you at rehearsal! Its just not the same without you". To me that spoke volumes. I'm on a team where the leaders genuinely care about me and miss me when I'm gone. That is everything.
This may sound obvious, but you have to work harder and way more intensely than everyone else on the team. Countless hours need to be put in outside of rehearsals to fully prepare every step taken, in building a set and running rehearsals. The director controls the vibe of rehearsals so when you are fully prepared and confident before you step into rehearsal, everyone will feel calm and ready to follow your every direction. Hours of work is done in the background, and most of the time the team will not know. But you gotta put in that work!
What piece of advice spoke out to you the most? Leave a comment to share with us below! Another important thing to remember about leadership is to take care of yourself and make sure YOU are happy. We learned this from Anna Sarao and Arnel Calvario at H4 - check out more of their tools for leadership here!