Leadership lessons from a professional ballerina

Alexandra Mills is the Products CEO of AussieCommerce Group, and looks after online retailers such as Brands Exclusive and TheHome.com.au.

Her first career as a professional ballet dancer might seem worlds away from her current position as a CEO, but Alexandra is confident the lessons she learnt during her twirling days have helped her succeed in the business world.

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Here, Alexandra lists the top lessons any leader can learn from professional ballerinas.

Always stay poised

Whatever might be happening behind the scenes or in your personal life, as a ballerina, you have to appear calm, cool and collected on stage.

Mills says good business leaders should know how to appear in control even in a time of crisis.

“If a problem arises, rather than panic, I always take a step back to see what has caused it and try to solve it immediately. Panicking and losing control can make your employees feel unsafe and insecure, so you need to remain calm and in control at all times,” she advises.

Be tenacious

After hundreds of hours of perfecting the same routine as a ballerina, tenacity is according to Mills just as important when heading up a business.

“When I stepped into my first CEO role, the business was making a loss and it would have been easy to feel disheartened. But I was determined to not only turn the business around, but to make it highly profitable,” she says.

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Said and done.

“Blood, sweat and tears pays off both on stage as well as in the boardroom. You can’t give up, no matter how tedious it is or how impossible your goal seems – hard work and tenacity will get you the results you’re after,” Mills says.

Pay attention to detail

After years of practicing making sure every limb – including her little finger – was in the correct position as a dancer, Mills says attention to detail is just as important being a leader.

“You need to know the ins and outs of your business and your team. Sometimes, the smallest issue can be causing you the biggest problems,” she says.

I sat down with each employee and learnt their roles so closely I can now cover for anyone

“When I stepped in as CEO, I sat down with each employee and learnt their roles so closely I can now cover for anyone, whether it be in customer service or system formatting. Knowing every single detail of what’s happening in the business has allowed me to analyse where inefficiencies and bottlenecks are.”

Believe in your team

On stage, Mills says you have to be completely aligned with the other dancers and have absolute faith in your dance partner.

“If you fear that your partner will drop you when he lifts you, the likelihood of that very thing happening increases,” she said.

“Likewise in business, you need to have faith in your team members and trust them when you need to delegate. My team is my best asset, and I spend a lot of time and energy on creating a work environment where they can flourish,” she says.

Mills has regular catch-ups with staff members, during which they talk about growth and development.

“Identifying talents and allowing staff to grow and develop is vital to keep your best workers, so I would recommend you invest a lot of time in in,” she says.

Alexandra Mills is the Products CEO of e-commerce giant AussieCommerce Group, and heads up fashion retailer Brands Exclusive ,online homewares destination TheHome.com.au, quirky pop-up shoppop.com.au and active wear online outlet TheActive.com.au