‘In the mix’: Relational leadership explored through an analysis of techno DJs and dancers

Brigitte Biehl
  • Leadership, March 2018, SAGE Publications
  • DOI: 10.1177/1742715018765050

Techno DJs not only control the dancers but are influenced by them

What is it about?

DJs often appear as charismatic leaders. They are however influenced by their audiences (followers). A DJ is nothing when people do not dance. And they never trust a DJ who does not dance. So there is a constant back-and-forth between DJs and dancers. DJs seek physical closeness to feel the engery and mood of the dance floor, they use their body movement to relate to the audience, and the techno set (and the sequence of tracks) is not planned but improvised and the result of mutual influence.

Why is it important?

The study shows that leadership does not belong to one "charismatic" person (DJ), but is between the leader and the followers and constantly negotiated. In this case, leadership is executed non-verbally and a result of empathy and the ability to connect to what is going on. Leaders in many situations need to be able to use their empathy and their "antennas" to connect with people whom they interact with.


Brigitte Biehl (Author)
SRH Hochschule der populären Künste hdpk (University of Applied Sciences of the Popular Arts)

Writing this article involved a lot of dancing to techno sets in clubs such as Berghain in Berlin an others and many interviews with artists. This kind of research cannot be done only with "hard data" and at the desk but researchers need to get a feeling for these situations and the atmosphere and the interaction. Using dance as an additional research method to interviews however is new in leadership and organisation studies.

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The following have contributed to this page: Brigitte Biehl