Men, "Leading" is more than walking through patterns while maintaining a frame for your partner. 'Leading' allows your partner to combine with you to become a single, living, breathing, feeling, two-headed four-legged animal. Men, you need to create a physical and emotional environment that encourages the development of power, emotions, feelings, oneness, etc. The degree that the lady can be part of this two-headed four-legged animal is based on how well the man can "lead".
Men, one of your main goals should be to develop your skills to a point where you can take a brand new dancer and dance her all around the floor with grace and confidence. The ladies response is usually, "I didn't know what I was doing but I had a wonderful time". This is possible because women, in general, do things by "feeling". The "lead" allows her to "feel" what to do in real time, so the leader has to know what the lady is supposed to do in each element in order to be able to lead it.
There is a general progression when men learn to dance. First, he learns the footsteps in a pattern. Then he progresses to converting the footsteps to "elements" (an element is generally the footsteps in a measure of music). He then dances the elements in a particular sequence for the specific pattern. So far there is no leading going on. He merely has a frame connection to his partner and expects her to recognize the pattern and dance it. If he is dancing with a partner that doesn't know the pattern it becomes very awkward and clumsy. Unfortunately, most men never progress their dancing beyond this stage. I call these dancers "pattern dancers".
The next stage is to become aware of your partner and intimately include her in your feelings and movements. This means you need to be able feel each other all of the time. The primary connection to your partner is through the frame. The frame has just enough physical connection between the two partners to be able to clearly feel what is going on (not too light, not too strong). At the higher levels of dancing there is what I call "invisible connections". These are specific logical connections that feel like a physical connection. I am not going into these connections at this time.
The frame connection allows each partner to be able to feel each and every part of their partner. For example: The lady can feel the difference in the rise and fall in the leader. She can feel if it is ankle rise, leg rise or body rise. The leader can feel her weight change to the new foot, her leg swing in Waltz, her head changes, her Latin motion weight changes, etc. This feeling of each other is what makes the partnership "ONE".
"Leading" has many facets. In addition to the frame, the leaders head position, rise/fall, moving from the supporting leg, the amount of power in a movement, faking a step, your visual position (in solo moves), etc. It is the leader's job to create a situation where the lady can do only one thing naturally. Every aspect of the leader's feelings and physical movement becomes part of the lead.
As you can see everything is part of the lead. It is not possible to be able to think of all of these things and dance. It all has to become feelings. These feelings are developed over time and evolve instead of being there all of a sudden. I hear from new students all of the time: "I'm not going to practice because I might practice wrong". There is no wrong in ballroom dancing, there is just better. The dancer has to start somewhere and evolve his/her dancing over time in order to grow the required skills and develop the overall feelings needed for higher levels ballroom dancing (higher levels mean more feeling).
The leader needs to understand what he is trying to get his partner to do. This means he needs to know her part and what it takes on his part for her to be able to feel what to do. It all comes down to feelings. Ultimately, the leader is feeling the complete two-headed four-legged animal as himself. There is no separation between the partners. There is just one entity.
NEVER be "A Ballroom Dancer", you will ALWAYS be "A Ballroom Dancer in Training". There is no end to improving your dancing skills.