Women have a lot of rules that they must follow in order to be the best follower. Men do not. I will go into the reasons for this in more detail later but suffice it to say that one person has to know what to expect from the other partner. Since the guy makes the decisions he is the one that has to know what the other person will do. The girl has to be predictable. The less predictable the girl is the harder (forceful) of a lead the guy has to be. He can't trust her to follow him so he has to take away some of her freedom and lead her with more force than finesse. Ironically, it is by following more rules that gives the girl more freedom.
But this isn't about the girls' rules. I want to cover the rules that men have.
Here they are in order of priority:
Keep the girl safe
Make the girl shine
Entertain the girl
Follow the secondary rules of dance.
That's it. Rules 2 and 3 might be interchangeable depending on the girl but rules 1 and 4 are concrete. (Actually, I've since realized that Entertain the girl is number 3. More below...)In essence, a good leader will always put his follower first. And if the girl truly believes that he will follow these rules to the letter then she will follow more easily. She wants to be led by a man who will put her first.
This isn't only true in dance. It's true in life too.
Why is "entertain the girl" less important than "make her shine?" Well, as the leader, you do not know what will entertain her, unless she communicates it to you. Even then, she will keep much of her emotions inside. We all do. So, while it's a mystery if she is being entertained, you can easily see if she looks good dancing. And what's more is that if you satisfy rules 1 and 2, she will be entertained. You don't need to worry about doing a lot of crazy moves to entertain her if she looks good. If you prioritize entertaining her over making her look good, you might lose focus and choose to do moves that are fun for you, but that you don't lead quite well enough. But if instead you focus on moves that make her look good, you have to lead them well. She will by default have a much better time.
About rule 4. This is an overarching rule that encompasses the secondary rules that guide the way a guy dances. Rules like Left, Right, Left, Right, Left, Right. Guys' rules, except for the first 3 are not set in stone. They are flexible and the guy can break them when he needs to. It's kind of like life. A lot of Women just HAVE to wake up in the morning and make the bed. But men? Pfft. They don't have to. Well, if they have a woman (or want one) they do, but if they are on their own it's not important to them. Dancing is even more black and white. Sometimes men HAVE to break their rules to make it possible for the girl to follow hers and for him to follow his top 3.
The beauty of the top 3 rules is that they don't take a long time to learn. It's all attitude. If he believes it he will do it. What's more difficult for the beginning leader is communicating that he will follow the 3 main rules. He communicates this with confidence. A lot of beginning leaders look like they don't know what's going on. They seem hesitant. The beginning girls pick up on this and they naturally start to back lead. They don't believe that the guys will follow the top 3 rules.
Ironically, unless you are naturally confident in everything you do, you have to start to learn rule 4 before you can show confidence in your dance. You don't need to learn all of the secondary rules, but you do need to learn your steps: Basic, Turns, Cross Body Lead, hook turn, etc. And you have to start to train your mind to prepare yourself for the next move. You have to think ahead. Once you start to think ahead, something will click in your brain. A light bulb will illuminate over your head and almost instantly you will start to display confidence. The sooner you get this the better for you and for the girls. Girls back lead and teach the guys to be bad leaders. But at the same time guys teach the girls to be back leaders because they have so much to learn and women learn their parts of the dance quicker. It's easier for girls to just wait for the lead than it is for the guys to learn to lead, but the girls have to shift their mindset and it's difficult for them to shift to letting a guy lead them if they don't have confidence in him.
So how do you obtain confidence? When I teach beginning I see a lot of guys who do the steps properly. They know the steps. They do them, but they have a sort of hesitance about their steps. They don't move with authority. They don't OWN the steps. So whenever you are taught a new move, as immediately as you can, recognize the point at which you understand how the step works. You may not master it, but you know enough to practice it on your own, or better yet with a girl. You might rotate to a girl and she might ask you, "how are you doing with the move?" You should say, "I'm getting it," or "I almost have it." You are telling her that you are only fine tuning. She will relax and if you do it right, she will enjoy being part of the process in your education.
Once you get to this point you don't need to look back. You have it. Own it. Play with it. Experiment with it. Women enjoy being a part of the process. They want to be taken on a journey and if they know that they are instrumental in your success, it gives them a real boost. You don't have to know all of these crazy moves to entertain a girl. Engage her. Include her in your education.