Your head can’t solve this alone

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February 11th, 2015

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your-headMany programmes I run now use leadership embodiment methods. The demand is rising, particularly from private companies, and with similar requests: “our leaders need more presence, resilience and authenticity and we want them out of the detail taking a strategic and collaborative approach across the company.” Why? Because this affects the bottom line. People are joining the dots for themselves: while these needs may not connect at a glimpse, embodiment work brings them together in one small step. It’s all about our embodied ‘centre’ – the body has remarkable power to get our mind into a more resourceful place and we largely overlook this.

Embodiment work offers us a distinction between ‘personality’ and ‘centre’. The proposition is that most of the time most of us respond out of our personality – the habituated, conditioned, ego-driven version of ourselves that we identify with in every part of our lives. But what about free will! I hear you say. Well, having worked on myself and with others for fifteen years, I am increasingly coming to believe that we are more habituated and ‘asleep’ than we dare to admit. The possibility of free will is there, but it’s hard work to harness it. And this is problematic: notions of self awareness and choice – much promoted in leadership development – start to wobble on their foundations. If we can only rarely catch our reactions in the moment and make choices, then how can we enact any new approach that helps us lead more effectively?

Well, there’s better news around the corner. Our personality, for all its loveable flaws (and by the way we need to love them because they’re not going anywhere..) is not the only show in town. Embodiment theory and practice proposes that we can also access a ‘centre’ in ourselves. When we physically align our body into its centred posture, we can shift our body chemistry and, by extension, our neurophysiology. Simply put, the way we sit and stand affects the way we think and talk, a lot! In a few short minutes we can ease our cortisol-frazzled hearts and minds into a more expansive, confident, creative, socially connected state where we can see the bigger picture and reconnect with those around us. The embodiment approach would say that our personality is still in play, but with much needed cavalry to strengthen and soften us from the outside in.

And it gets even better. Working with a group last week, I watched with delight as the penny dropped for one guy: “you mean, I can use this with my kids? And my wife?” This is the acid test for me – if our learning can help us with our whole life, rather than just the bit we box off and call work, that tells me that there is something deeper going on, that might truly touch upon presence and authenticity. This is about our being not just our doing but, in case that sounds too soft for you, nothing, in my experience, has more impact on our conviction to lead than our felt sense of being.