Updated: May 5, 2022
What dancing to a stranger's drum taught me about real leadership
It was New Year's Day, 1-1-22. I went to the beach to bask in the sun and crystallize the intentions I had set for the year ahead. One of those intentions was to draw to myself opportunities to be more of who and what I am as a leader and way-shower. As I wrote in my journal:
Like a horse, I want to run.
Like a river, I want to flow.
Like a flower, I want to bloom.
I want to experience more of the spirit that lights me up.
As I walked along the beach, lost in the musings of my mind, I heard a drum. Crossing the eroded plain of cold run-off from the past week's rain, I saw a man alone with three different drums, going back and forth between them to make his music. The sound immediately drew me in. I wanted to dance but walked past him, seeing all the people on the beach not dancing.
But in the rhythmic beat of the stranger's drum was an invitation. Pausing and turning around, I let the part of me that wanted to dance guide me to a sandy spot to lay down my things and move my body. Just a couple of minutes later, as I was swaying my hips and waving my arms, a jogger came up and said, "I'll dance with you." She took off her shoes and danced with me to the drums.
As we swayed and twirled, hundreds of people passed by. Some stopped to listen to the drums, some stopped to watch us dance, some kept walking or jogging. Some might have thought, "look at those lunatics making a fool of themselves." But others might have thought, "look at those women dancing without a care in the world."
When the drumming stopped and I said goodbye to my new friend, I realized the lesson in leadership I had just received.
Leadership is simply about being the light that I am. It is about showing up and being willing to dance when everyone else is standing still. To lead is to model new possibilities for people and lay the first steps down a fresh path.
For anyone whose heart wanted to dance but mind stopped them, they saw a possibility for themselves. Maybe next time they too will dance.
I also learned that leadership is often in the moment, guided by our intuitive heart. I didn't go to the beach with any agenda other than to enjoy a sunny day by the sea. The same is likely true of the man playing the drums. He wasn't selling a CD or asking for donations. He wasn't looking for a crowd of admirers. He just wanted to play the music that would bring him joy.
In doing so, he put out a frequency of freedom and purpose that found resonance in me. As I danced alone on the beach, I amplified that frequency, drawing in another who was a match. It was automatic, as frequency and resonance always are. We came together like waves to the shore. No announcing, coercing, or recruiting required.
It occurred to me that real leadership doesn't require the endorsement of anyone else.
The leader is like the lighthouse on the bluff, sending out beams of light for all to see. Those seeking a way in the dark will gravitate to it. Those who know the course or want to choose a different way will give it wide berth. A true leader is ok with that. The exhilaration of leadership is in forging a new path, not counting the people lining up behind them.
Learning these lessons about leadership relieved me of much of the pressure I had put on myself. I had thought that I needed to do something big, heroic and widely visible to make a difference and satiate that part of me wanting more. Perhaps something bold is in my future, but now I see that it won't come about by me pushing and forcing. All I need to do to lead is be me. That might be smiling at a stranger, standing for freedom, or putting my talents out into the open.
Wherever I have the courage to simply shine my light is where I will make my contribution to the better world I want to create.
In following my heart, I lead myself to my greatest joys and dreams. As I do that, I show others that it is possible and that wonderful things can emerge when we let go of fear. Just like the drummer on the beach showed me. Like countless others demonstrate every day. Even if I never wrote another essay, gave another speech, or coached another client, I am sending out the energies of passion, purpose, and potential for others to go into resonance with. That is what makes the difference. In the end, my leadership isn't measured by how many likes or followers I had but how true I was to who I know myself to be.
Are you ready to shine your brightest light? Let's talk about how we can clarify your vision, align your mindset, and make your light come to life. I offer free, exploratory consults with no pressure ever!