The Dance of Leadership
Shauna Sobers ’01 pairs her artistic passion with advice for career progression
by Matt Zencey
When Shauna Sobers ’01 is coaching would-be leaders, she has some counterintuitive advice: a good leader knows when to follow. It’s an insight that comes from her lifelong passion for dance.

Her passion was first kindled through her family roots in Barbados, where she learned calypso and soca dancing, and it grew during formal dance training at the Harlem School of the Arts. While majoring in economics at Bucknell, she performed and choreographed with the Bucknell Dance Company. Today, when Sobers is not busy with her job as an assistant director for residence life at the University of Texas at Austin and her side business in leadership training, she teaches dance and appears with companies that perform tango, salsa and bachata.

Shauna Sobers headshot
Photo: Yanyi Annie Liu
Shauna Sobers ’01’s lifelong passion for dance parlays into her professional pursuits.
In these couple’s dances, she says, the role of follower is not easy, so they offer a good experience for leaders. Novice dancers will see how success depends on the leader providing the necessary structure and communicating where the two are moving together. The leader knows there will be a time when the follower will draw the most attention, so it’s important to be able to step back, Sobers adds.

She also makes a point that she often demonstrates in her own dance performances: The person who leads doesn’t have to be male. It’s one way Sobers challenges preconceptions that the person in authority has a certain skin tone, gender identity or body image.

There is no secret sauce to leadership, she says: “It will be specific to each person.” But one bit of her leadership advice can apply to anyone: “Know yourself and continue to seek the understanding of others.”