It Takes Two To Tango

Written by David Pullan

It Takes Two To Tango

Last weekend McKechnie and I decided to strut our funky stuff at a tango bootcamp.


Little did we know that what started as a mutual dare to do something that scared us would throw up so many parallels with our lives as leadership communication coaches. 


‘How so?’ I hear you cry as you dust off your Carlos Acuña albums and check the BA schedule to Buenos Aires.


Well it’s all about the philosophy behind the dance. It’s about the pride, the determination, the offers, the acceptance, the listening and the building…and that’s before you even take a step.


Here’s how it works. 


At any milonga, which is what we tangoistas call a disco, the lead dancer takes to the floor, makes eye contact with their intended follower and offers them their hand. If the follower feels so inclined they accept the offer and link hands with the leader. The follower definitely chooses to follow rather than being forced to.


The follower then uses their left arm to embrace the leader to a degree that suits them. If they feel comfortable it might be a deep embrace, if not it might be more at arms length. Whatever happens the leader cannot force a more intimate contact than the follower initiates.


At this point it is about the leader ‘listening’ to the reponses of the follower and judging what sort of dance they are looking for. Do they want a macho dance or a muse dance? In other words, do they want to be led forcefully across the floor or do they want to be made to look great to any observer. Heaven help any leader who doesn’t read the signals. They won’t get many dances during the course of the evening.


After that the dancing starts, but I’ll go into that when I’ve actually learned how to do it.


For now I simply want to focus on the key elements of setting up your leadership in the tango.


Quite simply it’s about,

  • Giving strong compassionate signals that you are equipped to lead.
  • Realising that your leadership is about allowing people to choose to follow you rather than forcing them.
  • Respecting the level of leadership that a person wants and needs.
  • Making your followers look good.

This week I’d like you to channel your inner Juan or Juanita and think about these points. 


What sort of leader are you going to be and what changes can you make to your style so that people want to follow you? What can the tango teach you?


Think about this and in the words of that great business guru Tess Daly, ‘Keeeeep dancing.’




photo credit: <a href="">TANGO Buenos Aires  ( Analia & Gabriel)</a> via <a href="">photopin</a> <a href="">(license)</a>



  • W B Yeats

    'Think like a wise man, but communicate in the language of the people.'