The Halves And Wholes Of Leadership

“Love is born with solar flares
From two magnetic poles
It moves towards a higher plane
Where two halves make two wholes…”
–Neil Peart

We simply made it up. Neither of us had really had any formal lessons; I know I never had them. My stiff “pin-hips” as my mom and dad had always pointed out were no match for any boogie-woogie, hustle or swing, not even the tipsy white-boy sway I recalled trying to pull off one too many times. Also, rock and roll air guitar and drums do not count. Ever.


On the other hand, my now wife, then fiancée, had always, and still has, the disco-lemonade rhythm. In other words, she can dance. Naturally. With uninhibited hip-shaking bliss. So with my sweat and perseverance and pin-hips, and her with her rhythmic flow, we proceeded to put our very own wedding dance together to our song “Biggest Part of Me” by Ambrosia.

We also wrote our own vows based on mutual respect, but we weren’t all about two becoming one, we were all about two halves making two wholes, reveling in our individuality and differences just as much as our shared values.

A few years after we were married we took dance lessons for a while, really pushing me, and even my lovely wife, out of our comfort zones to learn different dances. Which is why we became and still are such huge So You Think You Can Dance fans, the dancing competition show that gives change management new meaning, each week pushing the young dancers to learn other styles, regardless of how much training they had prior to making it on the show. (Do note that a few of the SYTYCD dancers have eventually become choreographers.)

That’s why the biggest part of leadership is me. I mean you. And me.  It’s starts “here” – inside [hand to heart]. We now have a family and are its leadership, and although we’re still individuals with differences, we have developed a healthy amount of collaborative codependence, one partner leading the other and then switching roles, knowing when to delegate, when to make collective decisions, and when to go forth confidently alone.

Yes, it takes two to tango. And 200 can, too. And even 200,000. As Mark Fernandes put’s it:

You gotta find your dance floor when it comes to leadership.

And that takes a whole lotta practice and continuous learning and leading. Mark is the Chief Leadership Officer of Luck Companies, a global Values Based Leadership (VBL) organization, and he knows as well as I that leadership development isn’t anything new.

In fact, according to McKinsey & Company, US companies spend almost $14 billion annually on leadership development, and it’s a top-three human capital executive priority.

However, “around 30 percent of US companies admit that they have failed to exploit their international business opportunities fully because they lack enough leaders with the right capabilities.”

Where too many halves make no wholes.

That list goes on, and I’m sure you’ve read other articles and research on “why leadership fails.” What’s clear today is that all employees (i.e., learners as future leaders) today care about different things and their expectations from business in their roles as associates, customers, investors, and community members are changing rapidly.

All organizations and their leaders have to push themselves constantly to bend without breaking the break dance floor. Mark Fernandes also shared that the culture of any organization is an extended shadow of leadership. For business leaders to successfully transform themselves and bring others along with them, they must come from a place of passion, purpose, competency and authenticity.

Ballroom spinners caught in a serious moonlight.

But now we’re doing too many solos. According to a recent HRE article by Peter Cappelli, organizational leadership has shifted emphasis from committee-based, collaborative decision-making systems, too much greater individual accountability. This in turn has impacted leadership’s ability to delegate decisions and they have transformed into are “judges” where employees may make suggestions, “but they, the leaders, decide.”

You can only imagine what this does to morale, employee engagement, productivity, innovation, all the business bingo buzzwords being swept away from a dark and dirty empty dance hall floor, which is why we must always:

  1. Prep the halves. We fall in and out of love with our jobs all the time. Some more than others. You may not want to love your job or the company you work for, but you gotta want to love what you do, when you do it, how you do it, who you do it with and for, and how you get better at it. The ability to celebrate our differences with ourselves and others, while challenging ourselves to be better, is where personnel leadership starts – and where long-tail leadership follows.
  2. To make the wholes. Even with all the pressures of the marketplace, shareholders, attracting and retaining talent, leadership today should return to a greater union of collaborative codependency and continuously developing and making one another better. We all gotta find our dance floor and then let our teammates walk across that junior high gym floor to ask them for the pleasure of making some business magic, being literal leaders, project managers or individual high performers.

You may not want to call it a marriage, but that’s why staying in love is hard work and at the very heart of business, the halves and wholes of leadership.

“Let’s sway – under the moonlight, this serious moonlight…” —David Bowie

photo credit: Lotus Carroll via photopin cc

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