On Leadership

In many ways, a capoeira community is a disguised leadership academy. You can play capoeira by yourself, but to manifest capoeira in its full power and full colors, you need a group of people. You need people to play instruments, to sing songs and clap hands, you need people to play in the circle.

There are different roles; there are some hierarchy. But everything is done to create a roda with great energy and good vibes1. In capoeira, we have to learn to self-organize, take responsibilities, and solve problems together. Add to this a lot of physical contact and high emotions, and you will get another perfect analogy of life.

Observing how people behave in these volunteering situations gives us many clues about where they are at on their journey and what next steps as teachers we should take.

Some important lessons I’ve learned about leadership in capoeira, which is true for life in general:

  • Law of the Lid: The size of the leader determines the size of the group. A leader must grow personally to lead a larger group effectively. If the leader doesn’t grow, the group will revert to a size that matches the leader’s capacity.
  • To attract more, one must become more. Leadership development should start early; personal growth precedes group growth. The sooner you start working on it is better. A common mistake: “when it grows, then I will…”. You don’t have to be perfect from day one, but you have to start from day one.
  • Don’t overdo. There is a fine line, where you want to lead and inspire people with your characteristics, but you cannot overdo it to a point where they cannot relate to you anymore, or you give them an excuse of thinking that they cannot develop to the level that you developed.
  • Leaders can only lead to the extent they can handle failure. It is not just about personal resilience. Leaders who embrace failure as part of the learning process are better positioned to navigate the complexities of leadership and inspire their teams to achieve their best potential.
  • How you do anything is how you do everything. Our actions in one area are not isolated but can reveal broader patterns of behavior and attitudes. It is a reminder to strive for consistency and integrity in all aspects of life.

Further reading

1. Roda is a circle of people where capoeira is played, and high positive energy created by music, rhythm and movements called ‘axé’. Axé sometimes compared to ‘qi’ (气), a life force in Chinese traditions.