Wondering Wanderer

Week Notes Vol 185

November 20, 2022

I’ve been thinking a lot about different leadership styles lately and how it translates into dance. Seems like a giant leap, right? However it does actually make sense and here’s how/why/where.

There are styles of dances when it is all about competition. For some the goal is to win, to be the one at the very top. Then there are others where the goal is to make your group the best it can be even if you (as a person) end up being the mediocre one.

Here’s an example - growing up my cousins were super invested in ballroom dancing and competitions. They would spend their afternoons and weekends practicing, sometimes skipping sleep and school in order to be better than anyone else out there. The amount of time, effort and money their families sunk into it was mind boggling. In the end it did pay off for one of them and she was the running champion for a few years. I’m sure she enjoyed it but most of the time she just seemed exhausted - both before winning and after.

Meanwhile I have never had any desire to be the shining star and to be in the spotlight so folk dancing was my jam growing up. On surface it looks just like 16 people performing a routine, just like any engineering team would. Behind the scenes however there’s a lot in play. At the same time there is no I in winning as a dance group, but rather we. The group is only as strong as its least competent dancer.

I have both won and lost a competition as a dance group. Just like solo performance it takes time and effort but it also requires a blancing act of other people’s wants, needs, stamina and willingness to suffer. In the end though it is about team effort not solo performance which roughly translates into engineering leadership. Your team either helps you win the battle or will sink the ship. You don’t have to be the best dancer on the team, you just need to be willing to discuss your failures and commit to do better.


Katrin Valdre

Written by Katrin Valdre who has a permanent address in Portland, OR but does not believe in one physical location. You should follow her on Twitter