Dancing with the Stars

Mike Donahue is an executive coach who has done more than 2,500 hours of one to one coaching sessions and facilitated over 360 group coaching sessions. He resides in Indianapolis where he shares an office with a piebald dachshund named Fiona.

The next season of Dancing with the Stars starts March 21. I don’t watch this show (honest), but my wife does. Have you noticed how many of the past winners have been what I call “elite level” athletes? Of the ten champions crowned in the history of the show, three have been Olympic medalists; one is a retired NFL running back and another is a professional racecar driver. In addition, four of the second place finishers have also been athletes. Yet, in each season, just one or two of the 12 contestants are athletes.

It seems to me, the probability of having so many athletes as finalists would be low. How do we explain this? Were these champions just naturally good dancers? Does athleticism translate into dancing skills? I believe elite athletes have three things in common, regardless of sport, which allows them to excel outside their chosen field, even on a dance floor.

1.     They set big goals for themselves; finishing second isn’t good enough.

2.     They’re laser-focused on achieving their goals; they make sacrifices and work hard to succeed.

3.     They’re mentally tough and don’t let emotional or physical pain derail their drive to win.

What can business leaders learn from the athletes who’ve competed on Dancing with the Stars? First, it might help to recruit athletes to work for your company. Second, leaders should set the bar high with a short list of what Jim Collins calls big, hairy, audacious goals, and keep those goals top of mind for themselves and those who work for them. Last, just as Dancing with the Stars gives each participant a coach/professional dance partner to help them perform at the top of their game, leaders must give their people the resources they need to perform at the top of their games as well.

I never thought I’d find a leadership lesson on a reality TV show like Dancing with the Stars. Thanks to my wife, Kim for bringing it to my attention.

Dance on


Wonderful web site. Plenty of useful info here. Thanks