I went dancing Saturday night. Dean was supposed to come with me as we joined a bunch of friends at a swing dance club, but he was working all weekend and had no energy left to give, not even to one of his favourite activities. Dancing is something I have come to late in life; growing up in a conservative Mennonite community offered little opportunity to learn this social skill. This was my third time at this club and I proudly noted that I was no longer the least skilled person on the floor. After the basic lesson at the beginning of the evening, I danced with several in our group of friends and a few guys I had met during the group lesson. I so admire men who are learning to dance. They are the ones that have to lead, even when their partner might be more skilled than they are. I tried to be as helpful as I could be to the guys who had never done this before - helpful, yes, while never crossing the line of usurping their leadership role. There can only be one leader on the dance floor. One person who gives the cues.
It is tough to follow someone who has not quite learned how to lead. We are tempted to over-help, otherwise known as pushing the struggling person's attempt at leading aside, opting for efficiency over learning opportunities. I have had many patient and gifted teachers in my life, but of equal value to me are the gracious and willing followers who refuse to do it for me, who keep their hands relaxed and pliable, waiting, when they could easily be the ones giving clear direction. These faithful friends see potential in me and sacrifice their own comfort or performance in order to let me learn this difficult and multi-faceted coordination challenge called leadership.
They thrust me into the spotlight and applaud when I falteringly get something right. They are right behind me, offering encouragement forward, but not too proud to step backwards if I need to gather my strength and courage. They are not hesitant to try it again and again, letting me gain confidence and improve my abilties. They will even take a fall and join me on my butt on the floor if that's what needs to happen in order for me to learn from a mistake. They urge me not to give up, not to be too hard on myself, and tell me that yes, I will eventually get it.
It is true that there are not many great leaders in this world, but I say there are not many great followers either. I am taking lessons in both.
This is me and Jaclyn doing Dance Dance Revolution. Photo credit to Dean.