Becoming Ginger Rogers
I recently finished Becoming Ginger Rogers, How Ballroom Dancing Made Me a Happier Woman, Better Partner and Smarter CEO by my good friend Patrice Tanaka, chief counselors and creative strategist at or of communications agency Padilla/CRT.
Couldn’t put it down, actually.
What does ballroom dancing have to do with being the owner or leader of a PR firm, you may ask?
Plenty, it turns out.
(Actually, before I was brave enough to blog on my own, I featured PT, as she’s known, in a guest post I wrote on Leadership Lessons From Ballroom Dancing for Linked2Leadership.)
The book is the heart-felt and at times heart-wrenching story of how PT faced a number of serious hurdles in her life and her business, including the death of her dear husband Assadulloh and the unraveling of her award-winning public relations business, PT & Co., to which she and her partners had dedicated much sweat and many long hours. More important, it’s about how she found herself again, as a person and as a leader, through ballroom dancing.
First, let me assure you that’s it’s not just about ballroom dancing, nor just about PR (though I believe participants from both worlds will feel a special connection to the book).
A few important lessons, for both leadership and life, absolutely jumped out at me while reading the book. If you read it, and I hope you will, you may derive other lessons and pleasures from it.
- Just Let Go. PT started improving her dancing in competitions when she stopped caring about how she looked in the mirror or what other competitors and audience members saw or thought, and instead let go, truly feeling the music. She started to care less about the individual steps, and instead become one with her partner and connected with the spirit of each dance. When she waltzed, she transported herself to Old Vienna. When she mamboed, she mamboed like she was in steamy Havana. Wouldn’t we achieve more of our business goals if pursued them with all our hearts and all the passion we can muster? If we truly felt the music?
- If It’s Worth Doing, It’s Worth Doing All-Out. PT didn’t just focus on the dance, though she certainly gave the dances everything she had. But she didn’t stop there. She wore the boldest, most colorful costumes. She had her hair and makeup done in the exaggerated styles we see in ballroom competitions. She wore jewelry that she felt was gaudy. And eventually, she started loving it all.
- You Can Get Through Anything. I hope that none of you face issues as seriously frightening as the ones PT did. She lost the love of her life after a lengthy, grueling illness. She saw her business heading towards the abyss. Yet with her new passion, the support of family and friends, and belief in herself, she helped create a new, even more successful and more fulfilling business. And no matter what you face, you can get through it too.
- Be Willing To Be The Partner Who Follows. PT admits that at first she kept doing what she did at her company: lead. She simply could not follow. While this has its advantages in the boardroom, it simply isn’t an option for females in the ballroom. With some tough love from her dance teaching partners, she learned the joy of following. And this inspired her to be more willing to listen to and follow her partners and team at CRT/tanaka, in turn making her a better leader.
- Pursue Your Personal Passion. We do many things to improve our leadership skills, including reading the newest leadership books, visiting relevant blogs and interacting in organizations with fellow leaders. But we must, on a regular basis, step outside of the workplace and look at our leadership talents and challenges from a completely different perspective. When we do so, we vastly increase our capacity for truly inspired leadership.
Becoming Ginger Rogers is a deeply personal journey. Go along for the ride, or should I say, the dance. You won’t be sorry.
What are your personal passions? How has pursuing them made you a better leader?
Photo Credit: Karol DuClos
(Disclosure: CRT/tanaka has been a client of Jacobs Communications Consulting.)