Many leaders are so focused on leading their own organizations that it becomes all-encompassing. That’s a shame, because by regularly turning away from the business and instead focusing on an outside hobby, pursuit or passion, one can actually become a better leader.
I spoke recently with Patrice Tanaka, who is co-chair, chief creative officer and Whatcanbe ambassador for CRT/tanaka. She believes that pursuing her passion has improved her life, her business and her leadership acumen. She wasn’t always this way.
After too many years as a workaholic, Tanaka started competitive ballroom dancing seven years ago. Before that she had never even had a hobby.
“Nothing was as compelling as my work, so I poured everything into that. As a result, my life wasn’t balanced, my perspective was skewed, and I had no outlet for my personal creativity” says Tanaka.
Opening One’s Eyes…Through Dancing
Tanaka states that prior to ballroom dancing, she “naively and arrogantly believed that I had all the great ideas, and if my ideas prevailed, my company would succeed.” With hindsight, Tanaka sees that limited her perspective and also limited her company’s success potential.
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One of the first lessons she learned from ballroom dancing was that having a strong leader wasn’t enough: a strong partner-follower plays an equally critical role in winning. “The first time my dancing partner said ‘Will you please let me lead?!’ was a real eye-opener for her.” She didn’t know that she was hogging the leadership role.
Tanaka says this perspective has allowed her to be more empathetic to others’ input, especially during creative sessions.
Before she danced competitively, Tanaka says she was a slave to perfection. “I believed that it wasn’t enough to have a big idea and execute it superbly, but that you had to implement it flawlessly, impeccably, and meticulously. That made me an unforgiving taskmaster.”
Going All Out
Pursuing her passion taught her that being an unforgiving taskmaster impedes organizational success.
“If you’re afraid you won’t execute each step just so, you’ll hold back, and you’ll fail. Judges really aren’t looking for small errors—they’re much more concerned if you’re dancing ‘full-out’ and with passion.”
“Dancing full-out means not playing it safe, not worrying about making mistakes or how you look, but taking risks. It’s about getting out of your comfort zone, something real leaders must do on a regular basis. If you fail, you fail, and you learn from it. But if you don’t do it, you’re not really a leader,” says Tanaka.
As a result, Tanaka says she now approaches life—and business—more fearlessly.
Real Life Test
This approach was put to the test a few years ago when her firm was “pitching” a major account. The company had the option of creating a “PR-only” approach to a potential client’s situation, or it could go out of its comfort zone and partner with another organization that offered branding, advertising and other marketing services such as media buying, research, database marketing, and trade support.
Courage won the day. Her firm partnered with the agency, offered a full-bore marketing campaign and won the business. It’s now the agency’s biggest account.
Tanaka has absolutely no plans to change her dedication to dancing. In fact, she’s created a website dedicated to it, named, appropriately enough, Samba Girl.
Would you be a better leader if you “followed” from time to time? Could you enhance your leadership skills by spending more time pursuing your hobby or passion? Are you finding non-work outlets for your creativity and sources of creative inspiration? Or are you so focused on work that you seek perfection rather than performance?
Ken Jacobs is the principal of Jacobs Communications Consulting LLC.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Image Source: abc.com