By Michael Holland

In college I had the “opportunity” to take a ballet class for a semester with my then-girlfriend and my two very single roommates.  My understanding and experience in the field of ballet was non-existent, and my appreciation for dance as a sport was less than mature.  Throughout the course, I struggled greatly with manipulating my muscles to move in graceful, fluid motions, and seldom did my moves reflect anything resembling the desires of our instructor.

This ego-busting experience did yield benefits and these perspectives on leadership.

  • Gain New Perspective – Take on an assignment in a different functional area for a season.  You will have to exercise different leadership muscles to become effective and you’ll soon realize how much you may have been leaning on your deep functional knowledge to bolster your perceived authority in your prior position.
  • Great Effort Counts – I learned in ballet class that attempting to land with grace does not require dignity, just great effort.  Focus your effort on showing up in the lives of your employees.  You may be able to fake caring but you can’t fake showing up.
  • Motives Are Personal – My friends’ motives were much different than mine but were quite clear.  The motives of your peer leaders may be different than yours but are they crystal clear?  Are your motives clear to your peer leaders?  How about to your employees?
  • New Skills Have Rippling Impacts – Ballet class increased my balance which to my surprise showed up while playing lacrosse that season.  As a leader, be open to learning new skills, methodologies, technologies, habits.  Read books and articles from different genres.  Watch TED Talks and YouTube videos on seemingly obscure topics.

Leading well is not about being perfect.  All great leaders have struggled with not being as effective as they would like to be at times.  What distinguishes great leaders is that they show great effort in showing up and leading in the best ways possible in their current season.  Remember, you can fake caring but you can’t fake showing up.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • If you could spend a season in a different business function, which would one is enticing?  Which one terrifies you?
  • Go to lunch with a peer leader to talk about this Leadership Learning Moment and what experiences in your lives brought you new perspectives.
  • Have you had a boss that faked caring?  What were signs, behaviors?