Why Leaders Should Cultivate a Sardana Culture

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Sardana DancersA group of musicians sits on the steps of the Barcelona Cathedral. While band members – the cobla – tune their instruments – woodwinds, brass, and double bass – many of us stop. We position ourselves so that we can see the musicians, and we wait for them to begin.

At the same time, some of the people on the square begin to put their bags down together in a pile. Initially, they stand behind the pile. Gradually, they form a circle around it. Circles consist of six to eight people to start. If you’re standing near what was once a small cluster of people who have now formed a circle, you have no choice but to move out of the way.

When the music starts people in the circle join hands. They raise them above their heads and begin a series of intricate dance steps. Looking down to watch their feet, I see that many of the dancers – men and women – wear Toms-like, white shoes with thick laces that they wrap around their ankles and lower calves like ballet slippers.

While they dance, their faces are serious. They seem to be concentrating on the steps, the changes, and the ways they’re moving in relation to one another. They seem to be counting.

When the musicians take a break, the dancers do, too. Some stay for another dance. Others dance one or two numbers, retrieve their bags from the circle’s center, and leave.Sardana Dancers

A Catalan circle dance, it is called the sardana, and it dates back to the 16th century. When Franco became Spain’s dictator in 1939, he banned sardana, a dance he associated with the rebellious Catalans. Following his death in 1975, the dance returned to several of Barcelona’s public spaces.

Anyone who knows the steps can participate. To succeed in their groups and to keep sardana alive, each dancer must:

  • Collaborate
  • Share knowledge
  • Show up
  • Participate publicly
  • Be all in
  • Take pride in his/her work
  • Concentrate – no room for distractions
  • Practice
  • Know when s/he needs to leave

What if we could build this culture in our teams, our classrooms, our families, our organizations, and into our lives? What if we hired for it?

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