Perhaps it was the recent blog by Dianna Ellison on the analogy of waves and the cancer experience, or maybe just my own pining for being back in shape again (seven weeks postpartum), but I was reminded of an analogy that works for me when I think about nurse leaders -- the center dancer in a kickline!
Stick with me for a moment and don’t immediately picture your CNO in his or her Rockette costume at Radio City Music Hall. I danced for 15 years in New York City and did what was called character dancing -- scenes from Guys and Dolls, Will Rogers Follies, you get the idea. As the tallest dancer, whenever the scene featured a kickline, there I was in the middle. I'll let you in on a little secret: It was no walk in the park, but I sure learned a lot.
I moved to North Carolina and danced for five years with an Appalachian clogging team and tried to share what I knew about how to make lines crisp and clean and talked a lot about the hand positions we used with each other and the role of the center dancer. By then, I was also working in leadership roles as an oncology nurse, and the lessons were so relevant:
Know your team. After years of dancing together, I knew who tended to pop out in front of the line or pull others back. Neither was good for the line. I knew the same with my team at work: those who wanted to shine and didn’t think about the rest of the team, and those who tried to hold others back. My job as the center dancer or leader was to be aware and correct for that.
Push, but very gently, and have informal leaders you trust to do the same. Did you ever notice that you don’t see dancers’ hands in a kickline? That’s because they are in the middle of each other’s backs. The center dancer gently pushes and pulls those to her immediate right and left, entrusting them to pass the signal through the rest of the line. As a nurse manager, I trusted our leadership team to help work things out and to disseminate information on the unit.
Always present the unified front. No matter what was going on in the line or behind the backs of the dancers, we smiled for the audience, just as no matter who didn’t show up on a shift, we smiled and cared for the patients.
Maybe the next time you see a nurse leader you respect, you’ll imagine him or her in a funny costume or perhaps you’ll never view a kickline the same again. What other analogies to nursing come from your avocations?
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