Leading on the Dancefloor

30 March 2016 By Saya Lorback, Facilitator and Coordinator, Community Programs

In our work, we talk about adaptive leadership quite a bit. We encourage people to ‘leave the dancefloor, get up on the balcony’ – an analogy of taking a step back to observe yourself, those around you and the environment. It’s one thing to encourage, another to do. Here’s a story about the last time I was on the dancefloor - literally.


Firstly, a congratulations to Victorian Government on another successful Premier’s Gala Dinner, launching Cultural Diversity Week, which included so many parts of our community. Highlights were the clear bipartisan support and the sense that this was a night not only for the VIPs but so many guests celebrating and letting their hair down – many of those working tirelessly towards a Victorian community who #StandInHarmony.

 Our Leadership Victoria networks are deeply involved in community leadership and include extraordinary individuals – this event particularly showcased graduates from the African Think Tank’s African Leadership Development Program (ALDP) and New and Emerging Communities Leadership Program (NECLP) – with graduates from Bendigo, Geelong and Melbourne. Between work, study, family and friends, these leaders are constantly called to mediate, to listen and support, to have new ideas to influence change or to drop everything for an acute issue such as a community member in crisis.

To see the room full of these committed Victorians, simply able to enjoy and celebrate together was something special – a rare moment and shared across so many.

Perhaps this allowed for one of the most magic moments of the evening. We had just joined a group of friends on the dancefloor, including program graduates and people who had visited our NECLP Women’s program last year to take a salsa and merengue dance lesson. Seeing another graduate (ALDP’15), we called her over to join in. She asked about how to dance to the salsa music, and given there was a Latin dance teacher in our midst, began to learn the steps.

Suddenly we had a group across Colombian, Sudanese, Indian and Persian backgrounds, all taking a live salsa lesson on the dancefloor. Have you ever been near an inspiring group, but felt you couldn’t just join the festivities? Ever wanted to be a part of what you could see, but not sure whether you’d be accepted? I’ve definitely felt that, but in this case (especially once the VMC Youth Commissioner joined us and recruited all and any to the circle) the ‘in-crowd’ rapidly grew to a huge circle of the most diverse and inclusive group I’ve ever been a part of on a dancefloor.

Two rows of people stood to join this dancing, and the diversity of cultural backgrounds, traditional dress and true sense of celebration was just incredible. This was no nod to tolerance or acceptance of cultural diversity or a planned ‘multicultural group’ – but instead simply a group of people enjoying the moment together – and anyone could join.

By the time we had the Brazilian Carnaval samba style dancers, the dancefloor was a sea of formal suits, saris, shalwar kameez, flowing dresses and a whirlwind of people – perhaps a spontaneous but true representation of our Victorian community – a vast group of individuals each with their own identity and a common purpose to build a better future.

Whether from the balcony or the dancefloor, that room of 1,400 community leaders buzzed with the very best of our intentions becoming reality.

Saya Lorback is Leadership Victoria's Facilitator and Coordinator, Community Programs - including ALDP and NECLP.