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Leading and being led


Who has led you, and when what are the traits that has enabled you to let go of the reigns?

For me, the most inspiring leaders are those that celebrate the opportunities to be led themselves. It marks the sign of great self-confidence to let go and entrust another being with your time, whether it be for a staff meeting, a yoga class, or taking the hand of a young child wanting to lead you to the next activity.

I remember a time years ago when I fell into a position managing a large group, many of whom were older than I and fearful of losing their jobs. It was difficult for me to lead that group, and I’m sure it showed. Every day I woke up pretending; pretending to know where I was ‘leading’ the team, pretending to know how to engage the group and build enthusiasm about learning to work differently, pretending to have answers for my superiors about who and how to downsize. I wasn’t a very good leader, in part because I wasn’t prepared to be led by the group, and because I didn’t take the first step, there was no mutual trust.

As a yoga teacher, sometimes I’m in the role of a leader. During this time I observe people in the class, some of whom have a difficult time letting go and being led. I give vocal instruction to come into an asana, and inevitably certain students decide not to follow my lead, preferring to do the posture a different way, or doing something else altogether. As a yoga student myself, I understand that sometimes injury and life circumstance take us on a detour from the led class. Sometimes, however, we deter from the teacher or the group because the mind overtakes us, reminding us about things like: how our other, favorite yoga teacher teaches the pose, deciding to do it that way; or reminding us that we are professionals at urdhva dhanurasana (wheel pose) so there is no need to go through the process to better align the arms and feet to stabilise the shoulders and hips; or reminding us that we did a perfect headstand last week so there is no problem in tuning the teacher’s instruction out and just jumping up into it. The point is, there are an infinite number of ways to practice and teach yoga. David Life once said, “when you go to a yoga class, throw away anything another teacher may have taught you in the past. For those 90 minutes, give the teacher leading the class your attention and trust, and allow yourself to be led.” This has stuck with me, not just in yoga class, but in life.

We are all dynamically moving between states of leading aspects of our lives and being led in others. When we are able to acknowledge this and let go of the need to dominate or control certain elements, the flow of life is steady and vibrant. People will be more inspiring to follow, and as a result, we are be more aspirational in our own lives.

“Faith never knows where it is being led, but it loves and knows the One who is leading.” ― Oswald Chambers

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