I am blessed with knowing many great leaders in my life, most of them quite unique, many of them unusual.
Luc, my running pal over the last decade, frequently rubs people the wrong way and doesn't seem at all perplexed about this. He is unabashadly self-righteous and yet surprisingly accepting that the world is not the way he would like it to be. We get along well precisely because I am able to roll over and let him call the shots, he is the alpha. When Luc, Chris and I run together, they are in front and I am behind. This is just the natural order of our dynamic.
Todd reminds me of John, perhaps because both are successful, good looking dudes with wonderful wives and a pair of kids. They are both badass athletes with a work ethic that makes me scared to even think about. Both aren't nearly as alpha as Luc and Chris, there is give and take in our friendships because they don't need to be in charge of the situation at all times to be happy. They are both highly organized, highly detailed, type-A personalities. And while I'm also very much a type-A, the Hawaii boy in me comes out most within the context of sport, I tend to bring as much creative energy into my workouts as I do intensity and order. So among them, I'm the slacker, the goof off, the class clown. They look out for me, correct my mistakes, and ensure I'm heading in a positive direction.
The yogger, well, he and I have so many similarities and yet quite a few very priminent differences. Exploring those, dissecting them at times, provides endless fodder. We diverge on the topic of yoga and yet align on the topic of yogging, especially late at night while drunk and wearing jeans. He is a filthy creature, happy to take a bird bath after a 30 mile run whereas I could easily spend 30 minutes scrubbing dirt out of my toes. But when the yogger makes a suggestion, I listen intently because he knows stuff.
My friendship with my best pal in college, Alex, wasn't far from the friendship I share with the yogger, we are similar creatures and yet we do many things differently as well. Most of all, I think he understands why I make the decisions I do instead of simply being able to predict those decisions without understanding why. While we've drifted apart since we live on separate sides of the country, we sync up rapidly once reunited.
All of the men above, along with my father of course, are a strong source of influence. When they speak, I listen and try to absorb the message.
When it comes to yoga, there are quite a few male instructors who have a great presence, who speak words that ring so loud in my ears that I feel compelled to follow them as closely as possible. And then there are others, guys I am happy to call my friend, who I would gladly share a meal with or enjoy their class, but who don't quite connect to my soul in the same manner, they don't command the same level of attention.
My water polo coach was not large, not intimidating, not mean in any sort of way. But when he spoke, everyone on the team listened. He commanded an audience by the value of the words he offered up to us. He was the first coach I truly feared and yet someone I could relate to, someone I wanted to be more like, but someone who possesed the talent and skill that I would never have. When it came to track, as much as I loved running, the coach was almost as old as my grandfather and as adorable as he was with his shorts pulled higher than his belly button, he did not carry quite capture my attention.
I am purposefully leaving women out of this post mostly because, as a straight guy, the additional complexity of sexual chemistry makes evaluating female leadership even more complicated for me. I will say that this extra complexity, the richness of the interaction across the sexes, is one of the most interesting parts of being a student. Surely my father learns more from Yanna, with whom he competes with regularly, than he could from Lucas, her husband, who is every bit as able-footed of a dancer. And while there are a number of incredible male yoga instructors who can bend and twist and lift their legs to the ceiling, male energy is never the same as female energy.
Where am I going with this? True to form, I'm taking the long way to my thought of the day. What is the true essence of a great leader?
I think this is a very personal question. Some of us want a firm guide, someone to tell exactly what to do and how to do it. Others demand a leader with a certain kindness that allows us to feel safe and protected, that we might open up our flowers to the sun and not fear the rain. There also exists another group who values the art of incremental instruction, that special ability to lead in a controlled, methodical, step-by-step manner without going too fast at any single point. The list of styles seems more like an infinite continuum.
I think the biggest hangup for me and my intention to teach yoga is that the Dave Easa I am, the one I cannot escape from, is not necessarily the type of instructor I prefer for myself. I am not the leader I would self-select. While I do realize that I am ever-evolving both as teacher and student, I still feel comfortable saying this little hangup isn't going to simply dissolve away tomorrow.
When I look at the coaches and instructors who inspire me most, they are the ones who demonstrate strength and confidence in a space I am unable to find it. They all share similar characteristics of rigidity. They are all fiercely loyal to their own truth.
I struggle to make black and white statements. I rarely suggest a best path. As a run coach I don't know if I even have that much of a personality, I'm not overly demanding nor am I some great nurturing force. I'm kind of just an exciteable guy who tries to pump energy in as many different directions as I can when I'm leading. Within the context of yoga, I don't feel like I'm all that much fun even though I've really tried to be. I'm often simply surprised that my athletes and my students enjoy my leadership, not because I think I suck, but because I know what I like and I'm not it.
A key question asked when evaluating a yoga instructor is, "would you take their class?" I think the reason I have been dragging my feat with yoga teaching is that I would not yet want to take my own class. This is not really a question of self love or self hate, it's very much a stylistic question. I take a lot of classes from instructors that I don't really enjoy beyond the joy I create in my own body by moving and bending. I attempt to experience the variety that is available so that I may more clearly understand the essence of what it is that I prefer. Similarly, my father dances with all sorts of women many of whom he does not actually enjoy dancing with as a window into the ones he adores dancing with.
I suppose I don't understand myself until I can explain to myself why other people enjoy being coached by me or enjoy taking class from me.