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Creating Leaders With Pole Dance

By on March 9, 2015

Pole Dancing Empowers.

Some define power as control and dominance. Others define it as strength—physical and emotional resilience. At its core, power is influence. And when I think of influence, I think of leadership.

There are hundreds of definitions for leadership. Kouzes and Posner (authors of a classic text on leadership) suggest that “defining leadership is like trying to capture a river in a bucket.”

When I taught leadership to health care administration students at Cal State East Bay I always began by discussing seven key demands that cultivate great leaders:

• Visioning
• Maximizing values
• Challenging experiences
• Mentoring
• Building a constituency
• Making sense of experience
• Knowing self

How are these demands relevant to pole dancers?

Because pole dancing develops all of these leadership demands. And as pole dancers face these demands in classes, workshops, or training we build our talent and capacity for leadership.

Here’s how.

1. Visioning

Great leaders have a hope for the future. They envision this future and communicate the vision to themselves and others using concrete details and vivid images. They create this future by helping others see it and believe in it.

Pole dancing attracts visionaries. If you took a pole class within the past ten years then you have an ability to see past taboos.

We are the early adopters, creating the future of our industry as trail blazers who open studios, offer workshops and retreats, facilitate competitions and showcases, share our stories in articles, photographs and videos and produce clothing and accessories for this lifestyle we love.

Pole also fosters visioning.

For example, in classes like S Factor, guided meditation is part of the warm-up. Teachers motivate students with colorful descriptions and metaphors of how movements feel. Students enhance their imagination.

IMG_3516_2Many pole dancers keep journals, which develops creativity through writing, drawing and found images. In my first year of pole dancing I made a collage of my ‘erotic creature’ personality; soon after I began keeping a journal. When I look back at my treasure map/vision board I am blown away at the insight and intuition present in the pictures I chose to illustrate my sexy alter ego.

I blossomed into the woman represented by these images in class and life.

Sexy and sensual styles of pole increase awareness of the senses. This awareness affects behavior and language choice in speech and writing. Every writer has heard: Show, don’t tell. This advice also applies to visionary leaders because sensory details are key for followers to get on board.

In freestyle we express emotion and tell stories with our bodies. We also interpret music, which is full of poetry and symbolism. Similarly, those who choreograph create a vision through movement, costume, music and more. Performers take it to another level by entertaining and evoking a response in their audience.

How does pole demand visioning from you?

2) Maximizing Values

Acknowledged leaders live from their core values and beliefs and use them as guiding principles. They rely on them like a buoy in turbulent waters. Values provide direction for achieving the vision. Their underlying philosophy drives thier decisions, particularly when there are tradeoffs and conflict.

What great leaders value and hold dear is clear because what they say and do is consistent. They spend their energy, time and other resources on what they value. Their behavior mirrors what they believe. They are authentic and genuine.

Pole dance deepens authenticity and genuineness because it reveals our unique values. Emotion and movement don’t lie. The more we integrate what dance reveals, the more our behavior reflects our deepest values.

Before pole, I was serious and thoughtful in my professional life, rarely letting out my more playful side that close friends and family knew well. Pole coaxed this side out of hiding. And gave me clarity on my most treasured values besides learning: (tears of) joy, play, passion and love, which now infuse all of my life. They were evident in my treasure map before I was consciously aware of them as my guiding principles.

What are your deepest held values and how does pole help you lead from these deep still waters?

3) Challenging Experiences

Strong leaders experience challenges. Confronting challenges accelerates learning, increases capacity for performance and broadens horizons/possibilities. Strong leaders also make decisions, think outside the box and take on increasing levels of responsibility.

Most leadership programs require participants to conquer challenges. The army has its obstacle course, the premise of Outward Bound is rooted in challenge, and it’s why Tony Robbins ends his signature experience with fire walks.

Pole dance is full of challenges.

Attending the first class takes extraordinary courage for many of us. Conquering a difficult trick makes you feel like you can do anything, whether it’s your first inversion, climbing to top of the pole or nailing a superpain.10636666_10152574649038445_1771804196478632610_o

Those who stay with pole long term continue to challenge themselves by facing fears and taking on new challenges.

What pole-related adventure is calling your name?

4) Mentoring

Wise leaders know that mentoring is important to both give and receive. They ask questions and obtain advice. They share their expertise informally in order to inspire and teach others. Typically, they also formally mentor one (or more) people to carry out their vision.

Pole dancers can’t help but share their vision. We convince others to join us because we want them to experience the same thrill.

IMG_3196We invite friends to take class with us, show them how to do a favorite spin on the pole in our living room, or host a parties and jam sessions with mixed levels.
We capture magic moments on film (or video) and proudly share them on facebook, instagram or youtube. We share our stories. We inspire with our enthusiasm. We lead by example.

Some of use step into more formal teaching, coaching and mentoring roles.

How do you (or can you) share what you know, informally or formally, to ensure your vision comes to fruition?

5. Building a Constituency

Successful leaders build community and create rapport with a wide range of people. They seek support (and provide it). They have supportive friends, family, professional connections and fans/cheerleader who celebrate their achievements, console when they stumble and believe in their vision.

Pole dance builds community. Friendships developed are commonly cited as one of—if not the—biggest benefit.

I’ve written about pole sisterhood here and here. One of my classmates wrote a compelling piece about how we supported her with unconditional love through a difficult loss. Katie Johnson, fellow Bad Kitty blogger, wrote about how pole girls love each other like no other.

How do you strengthen your pole community and rely on its support?

6. Making Sense of Experience

Thoughtful leaders learn from their experiences and help others do the same. They understand their successes and their failures. And they integrate what they experience and learn into their life and leadership.

For many, pole dancing is therapeutic. When we dance we access the wisdom of the body, emotions and intuition. Improvisation, in particular, enables us to reveal hidden beliefs that hold us back, get unstuck, make decisions and stop struggling.

When I dance, I often set an intention or ask a question to process during class, during a freestyle session or I dance to a particular song. I play, explore and discover through dance, often receiving an insight that brings understanding. Through reflection in writing, discussion, storytelling or drawing I uncover deeper wisdom and integrate the lessons to make changes in my life and solve problems.

How do you make sense of your experiences in pole?

7. Knowing Self

Extraordinary leaders know who they are and who they aren’t. They know their strengths and weaknesses. They are genuine, their personality is the same in work and play.

IMG_1779-EditPole dancing deepens self-awareness better than anything I’ve ever experienced. It’s as if with every dance we recover a lost puzzle piece we need to become whole.

We reclaim forgotten aspects lost to a culture that numbs us to our emotions. We remember talents, goals and dreams discarded for more practical pursuits.
This occurs through the colors we wear to class. The outfits or costumes we don for improv or performance. Our favorite moves and music. The style we develop. The emotions we feel and express.

How does pole help you know yourself better?

As we integrate the layers of ourselves we discover in pole class into our lives we blossom and become more of who were are meant to be.

In these ways, pole dancing creates leaders.

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Lisa Faulkner
Frolic w/ me

Lisa Faulkner

Founder at Siren Institute
Lisa is a feisty tiger who frolics in the sand + around the pole when she's not inspiring others with her educational roar. Play and learn with her at poledancingprofessor.com.
Lisa Faulkner
Frolic w/ me

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