The happy end
My most visited post in 2023 had been triggered by a post of one of the major community leaders in Frankfurt. In a moment of anger, he made the mistake of posting a long angry text that in the end was suggesting that people should pick a side. Most probably you have already seen the post and if not you can go and read it now if you like.
To be honest I don’t consider myself as a voice that really matters or should be taken at face value. I, first of all, often doubt the things I write and question my previous posts again and again. So when I was writing all this I was expecting that things would change… I just wanted to express my opinion and how I felt. It turns out many other people had shared the sentiment and did not really speak up. In this case, however, my post also reached the eyes and ears of that specific community leader who triggered me and the result surprised me very much!
After a few weeks of my post, I saw a new one from the same person publicly accepting that he went too far in the previous post and that he shouldn’t have done so. Some days after that one major point of friction in the community, the two simultaneous milongas on Sunday, was “magically” resolved when one of the two teams stepped back. The result is that all those weekend milongas are now fully packed and people enjoy them much more (at least I know I do so).
One of the most mistaken concepts in Tango is the concept of the leader. It is not so much because of the word itself but also because of what that is associated with. There are so many leaders out there in everyday life. Leaders of small teams, companies, clubs, parties, countries etc. We all associate leadership with authority. A person who has power and authority to demand and command whatever they think is right to lead their group to success.
Have you ever considered how many of those leaders are loved and followed wholeheartedly by their groups? Certainly not all and you probably have examples in your social circles. But why is it that some leaders are loved and inspire their groups and others do not? There are a bunch of different traits but one counterintuitive key trait is that they openly show they are not perfect. They are not afraid to show their group that they are vulnerable, prone to errors and mistakes etc. They are not afraid to show they are simply… human. In those leaders, their groups see one of themselves… Identify with them and support them wholeheartedly even when they make a mistake, as long as they are honest and acknowledge it.
In one of her TED talks, Rene Brown explains the key trait of people who manage to build meaningful connections with others… people who are loved by others. Do you know what the key trait is? Accepting and being honest and open about your vulnerabilities. Showing to others that you are imperfect. Showing to others that you make mistakes but you are not afraid to acknowledge them and apologize for them. This is what makes people able to form deep meaningful connections.
You may think that all this has only to do with communities and how their leaders should behave but no. The role of a leader in a dancing couple can also draw some parallels from that. The leader in Tango is a leader in a group of two people. Although it is the smallest group you can have the same principles still apply. If you want your followers to love you and follow you wholeheartedly one of the key traits is to be able to acknowledge and apologize for your mistakes. It is the ability to show that you know you are imperfect and have vulnerabilities and are not afraid to show them.
Think about it. How many times have you encountered the following phenomenon? The leader makes a mistake while dancing and the follower says “sorry”? The differentiating factor is what you, as a leader, do in response. If you stop and try to teach the follower how not to make the mistake again… or if you try to insult your partner… you are obviously no leader at all. You’d better abandon Tango immediately. I mean it! STOP NOW! If you shrug it off and say something like “it’s ok… no problem” you are on to something but you are afraid of maybe accepting your part in the problem. If you directly say… “Why?… It was my mistake!” then you are on your way to becoming a true leader. If you even manage to have the same reaction almost every time you hear a “sorry” from your followers and if, even better, acknowledge your own mistakes without waiting for the “sorry’ of your followers then you are probably not only a true but also a beloved leader. Because leading has nothing to do with perfection, power or authority. On the contrary, it is all about the open honesty about your imperfections!
This open honesty about your imperfections and your vulnerabilities is what makes you able to form meaningful connections while dancing. Those connections in turn lead to magical unforgettable Tandas and that’s how you become a beloved and highly sought-after true leader! Both in dance and in life!
Setting the example
If you are a leader I hope this post makes you reflect on your attitude towards your role and possibly helps you understand the importance of being open and honest about your vulnerabilities with your partner. If you are a community leader, an organiser, a teacher, a DJ or even a prominent community member that people look up to… I hope you follow Paolo’s (our community’s leader) example and set an example for future leaders. We need so much more of that kind of leadership!
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango
Tonight’s Goodnight Tango is a song about mistakes. It is the story of a man who got rich and in between drinks, girls and kisses, he lost the love of his life. It is a reflection of his mistakes and an expression of regret. That is where the path of not acknowledging your mistakes on time can lead. To great regrets.
So how about you? Are you one of those leaders who acknowledge their mistakes? How do you react? Do you apologize? And… If you are a community leader, how do you see and present yourself to the community? As an infallible leader who knows best or as a flawed human leader who makes mistakes and takes responsibility for them?