Erin Prange has been dancing pretty much since she could walk. She’s been a part of the professional dance world in Colorado, Boston, Rhode Island, and St. Louis, with multiple roles and positions under her belt (or would it be her leotard?). Dance is her personal passion and she considers herself lucky that it’s become her professional world, too. In 2010 Erin became a company dancer with The Big Muddy Dance Company, a St. Louis-based repertory dance company. And as it often goes, her talents led to new opportunities.
She became the Marketing Director at The Big Muddy in 2011 before stepping into the role of Executive Director in 2013. But with these added leadership responsibilities, Erin had to navigate changes in her relationships and skill sets. She began walking the difficult line of being someone’s peer as a dancer and then stepping into the office suddenly as their boss. The skills that helped her succeed in dance were entirely different than the new skills it took for her to be a leader. So she had to learn to juggle both.
Erin has navigated many highs and lows through her 9 year journey with The Big Muddy, and has learned some important lessons that we think any leader can benefit from:
1. Keep your eyes on the future.
As a leader in this organization, Erin always has her eyes two or three years down the road because “nobody else is thinking about that.” In most leadership roles, the people you’re managing will be focused on the here and now (which is a good thing!). That leaves the leaders to focus on what propels a company forward. How is what you’re doing now contributing to the long term plan? How does it contribute to the mission?
2. Keep your brain on the mission.
The mission at The Big Muddy is to “invigorate life through dance,” and this is something Erin tries to live by every day. To make sure she stays true to the mission, Erin brings up these words in almost every conversation she has about The Big Muddy. And she says it’s written everywhere as a visual reminder, too. Any time Erin considers something new, that’s the number one question: “Is this doing what we set out to do?” Besides centering your work and organization, what’s the benefit to living so clearly by a mission? It’s a great way to increase transparency and clarity as a manager.
3. Keep your heart on the relationship.
Erin’s final suggestion for becoming a successful leader: “Human relations is the number one priority.” While phone calls and email are great for convenience, nothing beats face-to-face communication. Erin finds those connections to be the most productive and foster the most investment from her team, especially considering her background working right alongside members of the company. We certainly agree with Erin here at RISE! Our community thrives when we’re collaborating together, and we couldn’t be happier to have Erin as a St. Louis member.
We’re excited to focus all our programming on Leadership + Management this month so that we can all grow these skills together. Interested in developing your skills with us? Sign up for a tour HERE!