Last Summer, I received a compliment I have cherished ever since. It was offered me by a guy I had met only recently.
He had texted that he might have to re-schedule our catch-up which had been in the diary for weeks. His text reached me already on the train, en route to the place where we were due to meet.
The way I engaged in the ensuing negotiation impressed him so much that this experienced businessman greeted me with the words 'I have the distinct feeling that you took a lead in that exchange but I just can't tell how' as we settled in at the hotel lobby.
I acknowledged his compliment with a smile.
I knew how. Argentine Tango had shown me that there is a way to lead to subtle and elegant that it's even hard to tell who is leading. It seems more like 'somehow we went that way'.
If you don't already dance Argentine Tango - and my guess is most readers of this blog post won't have - you may consider it a 'difficult' dance.
It can certainly look complex and impenetrable.
It was in the face of such expectations from my students of Argentine Tango that I set out to devise easier - and faster - ways to grasp and experience the essence of this exquisite dance form.
I decided to strip out all the technique that tends to keep beginners pre-occupied, and set up a format for experiencing directly the lead-and-follow dynamics in play.
I borrowed a practice from martial arts that I had heard described as 'Butterfly lead'. The fingertips of one person rest lightly on the back of the hand of the other, as a butterfly might settle on a plant stem. In martial arts, this practice is used to develop sensitivity, and it did very well for teaching students the skills for joint improvisation - the core format of social Tango.
Here Maddie Broad, a friend, is helping me demonstrate the Butterfly Lead at a conference presentation
From abstract 'leadership' to 'how do you lead'
While training as a Leadership Coach, I asked myself repeatedly what, if anything, I really knew about leadership.
I had books about it, among them a large heavy tome which reported on the many views on leadership that our culture has held over the last century. Apparently, a hundred years ago, leadership meant the ability to control others and make them do as one wanted. Among the current approaches to leadership this book listed 'legacy leadership', 'servant leadership', and a host of other 'types' of leadership. Ironically, this authoritative summary of up-to-date research started out with acknowledging that 'we can't really define what leadership is'. So that did not provide much firm footing.
It dawned on me however, after a while, that I knew something very reliable and valuable about leadership: I taught people to lead and follow, in a TANGIBLE if subtle way.
Two steps to leading
'One Step At A Time' workshop gets started very quickly. Over the years, I have homed in on the briefest instructions sufficient to set people up to succeed at leading on their first attempt.
My instructions on how to lead have distilled into two sentences.
These are simple to say and profound in their implications:
1. Include yourself in the pairing, in the larger entity, the new 'us' that is forming.
2. Move you.
What these two phrases enable people to do, and how, is revealed in practice. It is this practice that the 'One Step At A Time' workshop provides, so that the relevance and power of these two phrases come alive for you.
Since coaching is less about the abstract and more about helping in practice, the workshop points participants to consider what situations they are involved in that they would like to see improve.
Once you have enough lead-and-follow savvy to get by, we use the format to represent real-life situations, so that you can also practice exploring how what the movement format reveals can translate into action in the world.
What situation or aspect of your life would you like to lead to transform?
What could become better for you, more like a vibrant and joyous dance?
TEDx talk: 'Dance Tango Life'
In 2013, I gave a TEDx talk on the surprising things that dancers of Argentine Tango find the dance brings into their lives: a new medium for communication, an opportunity to heal, and even a sense of communion and peace within themselves.
My work to make learning Tango more accessible laid the groundwork for what has since become ByHeart's signature workshop on thriving in dynamic environments.
Dance Tango Life | Margarita Steinberg | TEDxSussexUniversity
Discover ByHeart's signature workshop
Experiential Learning of the Embodied Kind
In embodied learning, physical movement is the medium through which we internalize knowledge.
The unique ByHeart format using elements of Argentine Tango was presented at the 2nd Active Learning Conference aimed at the Higher Education sector in June 2018.
Long-read on this learning format
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Margarita Steinberg
I am a Leadership Coach with a specialism in Psychosynthesis psychology. I am the founder of ByHeart Coaching, and this blog grows out of my coaching work. I am also a qualified and experienced teacher, and draw on training in counselling skills.
I work with individuals and couples, as private clients; I also work with organisations through running leadership coaching programmes and group workshops.
PUBLICATIONS A chapter on my innovative learning format using embodied learning appears in the book 'Disrupting traditional pedagogy: Active Learning in Practice' published by University of Sussex Press in June 2019.
In preparation: my first book 'One step at a time: how to thrive in a dynamic world'