Bil-Cher-DancePose-smallWe have been ballroom dancers since 1996, and even competed as an amateur couple for several years. We discovered that two of the most over-used and misunderstood words in ballroom dancing are: Lead and Follow. The same is true for the business world … and the lessons to be learned can transform your leadership effectiveness. Let us explain!

People have the impression that, in ballroom dancing, the man leads and the woman follows — end of story. But that is just not true. In fact, in competitive dancing, it makes no sense whatsoever. Both partners are completely familiar with the choreography, and understand the steps, patterns, and movement. So nobody has to “lead” anybody anywhere! What actually happens is that one partner initiates the move with a proper lead, and the other completes the intended pattern with grace, drama, and style. The secret is not “Lead/Follow” but rather, “Initiate/Complete!”

In business, true leadership is the ability to inspire people to achieve defined objectives. Once a vision is conceptualized and the strategic direction defined, a leader’s job is to get out of the way, and let talented and engaged people successfully “complete” what the leader conceptually initiated.

In today’s nano-second world, seldom can we take people where neither of us as been. We must arrive together in a partnership of initiation and completion, cause and effect, strategy and tactics.


You do not have to drag people where you want them to go. Learn from the world of Ballroom with these 5 simple lessons:

  1. bil-cher-ballroom-leadershipDetermine your vision (choreography);
  2. Set clear expectations (floor movement and styling);
  3. Clarify the roles (the dance patterns and who leads and who completes);
  4. Provide the proper training to ensure everyone possesses the necessary skills (coaching and rehearsal);
  5. Let your people perform! (Get out of the way and watch the magic of the dance).


“Throughout our dancing career, we always thought of the “3-D Effect:” Discipline; Dedication; and Determination.
If you can concentrate on this throughout your practice and competition at the same time as enjoy and show that you enjoy your work,
you will always be successful.” (Marcus and Karen Hilton, 8-time World Professional Standard Champions)


This article is based on an excerpt from the book From Ballroom to Bottom Line … in business and in life, by Bil & Cher Holton.

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