I’ve always been a leader.
I think it’s also because I’ve also always been a control freak. I’m terrible at delegation and tend to live by the mindset, "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself." This way of doing things has typically served me well in my career. Because of my single-minded, determined, independent approach, I literally built a brand from scratch. I created a social media movement that reaches millions of women across the world every day. I’ve written four books, including one New York Times bestselling one. I’ve worked with Oprah. OPRAH. I mean, come on … that’s the Holy Grail! I list all of these accomplishments not to brag but to point out how being a leader and hustling and charting my own career path instead of waiting for someone to show me the way has helped me achieve a body of work beyond my wildest dreams.
But guess what? Being a 24/7 leader and boss-babe and control freak has NOT always served me well in my personal life. Why? Because spoiler alert: People in relationships don’t like to be controlled. They don’t like to be told what to do. And healthy relationships require an equal balance of give and take, lead and follow, push and pull, in order to work.
At the start of 2019, I set a couple of goals for myself: 1) To learn how to let go with greater grace and 2) To recapture my childlike joy. So when a friend who is also the owner of National Dance Clubs approached me in January and asked me if I wanted to help out with their social media in exchange for dance lessons, I jumped at the chance. Here was an opportunity to achieve both of my New Year’s resolutions, plus do something that I loved, all in one fell swoop!
I first took dance lessons in my 20s and fell madly in love with ballroom dance. There’s a joy and freedom that dancing brings that is unparalleled. Since it had been around 12 years since I had danced, I was eager to see what I remembered and if I would easily slide right back into the groove of things.
My first lesson, I pretty quickly recognized the difference between dancing in my 20s and dancing at age 40. In my 20s, I was still becoming who I was going to be. I was still honing my leadership skills. I wasn’t as set in my ways. And now? Now I have no problem going into any room or any situation and taking control. But guess what? You can’t take control in dance. (Especially when you don’t know what the heck you’re doing.)
There would be moments when I would push when I was supposed to pull. I would anticipate the wrong move and do the wrong thing. I would try to lead a dance I didn’t even know the steps to. And I’m pretty sure I made my instructor want to pull his hair out. Dances that could have been fun and easy and lovely became a struggle. And both my instructor and I were frustrated.
Here’s the thing. You can’t effectively lead if you are unwilling to effectively follow. It takes humility and openness and even bravery to let go and let yourself be led … but it’s a necessary part of life. And of being a leader. And of being a good partner. I had forgotten that. I had been so busy doing things my way over the past few years, I hadn’t stopped to think that sometimes my way isn’t the best way.
Dancing is very much symbolic for relationships. It’s two people working together toward a common goal — a beautiful, effortless dance. If both people are leading at the same time, or following at the same time, the dance doesn’t work. Or if one person insists on having things their way and isn’t open to the other person’s point of view, the dance doesn’t work. And neither does the relationship.
After a couple of lessons, I started to let go a little and let myself be led. And slowly, the dance started to flow. As do most things when we learn to release our grip of control and just TRUST.
Trust is hard for me. It might be hard for you, too. I get it. But good leadership, and good relationships, require it. The beautiful thing about being a badass take charge boss-babe is that you don’t have to be one thing or the other. You don’t have to be either sweet or sassy. You don’t have to be either strong or vulnerable. And you don’t have to be either a leader or a follower. You can be both. You can be all things. And your work — and your relationships — will be better for it.
Two months later, I’ve finally learned how to fully let go and follow someone else’s lead. And my dancing is free and joyful and light and fun. I’m still learning how to let go and follow someone else’s lead in life … but I’ll get there. Because I want my life and my relationships to be just as free and joyful and light and fun as my dancing.
I want to encourage you to let go a little, too. Stop pacing, stop sweating, stop controlling, stop fretting. Some of the most beautiful things — and beautiful dances — happen when we just let go.
I’ve always been a leader.