In a world of constant change, we all face the challenge of keeping body, mind and soul-aligned while continuing to forge ahead in our various pursuits. This can present a challenge for leaders who are required to maintain a powerful, authentic presence in the face of continuous disruption while also cultivating high levels of performance for themselves, their teams and organisations.
Being an intellectual genius or having exceptional talent or ability is not enough to lead people in today’s world. Managers who are bright or intellectually smart and process information rapidly can get so far ahead of their team members that they create a state of disconnection and separation. In a world where the ‘whole is always greater than the sum of its parts,’ the engagement of the collective wisdom of a team is paramount in generating new ideas and innovative solutions to day to day situations.
For many leaders, showing up in their full potential and achieving results with and through others is often difficult leaving leaders feeling isolated and alone. No matter how much we might think we are showing up positively and powerfully in the face of constant disruption and change, our personal presence sends a powerful message that can be quite contrary to the one we think we are communicating. The way we walk, the way stand, the way we breathe, the way we listen, the way we speak sends a powerful subconscious message to those we seek to connect with. This message either confirms or contradicts the message we think we are sending. Powerful leaders learn to become mindful of their reactive tendencies and develop skilful and resourceful ‘centred’ ways of being that generate the outcomes they care about.
Most of what we do and say is unconscious, brought about by habitual ways of thinking and emoting that we are often totally unaware of. Whilst, skills, knowledge and positional power may carry some weight in our leadership efforts, the body, however, through its own volition, often delivers a completely different message.
Leaders are paid to have high-quality conversations that get results – but communication and conversation isn’t just about the spoken word. 93% of the message a leader sends is non-verbal – i.e. the way we hold our body coupled with the tone of voice we use has a major impact in delivering a message that is either on target or completely offbeat. Before we are even aware of what’s going on internally, our body has already fired off a myriad of chemical reactions and collapsed into habitual shapes or ways of being which are completely contrary to the reaction we actually envisioned for ourselves.
Trying to change our habits and responses to stressful or pressured situations through the mind alone takes a lot of time and energy which we don’t always have when we are up against it. Pursuing this course of action for long periods of time can lead to burnout and exhaustion. To be a powerful leader we need to frequently be able to access resourceful and creative physical and neurological ‘states’ to reduce or alleviate the body’s stress response (Fight, Flight or Freeze) and quickly recover our ‘centre’ of balance when confronting difficult or testing circumstances.
Research in neuroscience has demonstrated that our physical posture, our breath and the way we carry ourselves not only influences our thinking and emotions but also the environment around us. This has consequences for leadership. The mood and the interior condition of a leader impacts and influences those around them. (via mirror neurons). We may notice on days when we are centred, clear and confident, we may handle challenges and stressful situations with ease and poise. On days when we are overwhelmed and under the whip, we may find ourselves reverting to our baseline survival reactions involving variations of the stress response: Fight, flight or freeze.
We may spend years trying to get to the heart of dysfunctional emotional states through traditional forms of therapy, however, working with the body may prove to be the most immediate, beneficial and direct point of focus if we are to quickly build our inner resilience and shortcut the stress response. Working with and through the body allows us to quickly gain access to resourceful mental and emotional states to fully achieve our leadership potential
Leadership today calls for us to get inside our reactive personality patterns and become more aware of how we are getting in our own way while learning to engage in bolder and more powerful ways of showing up for ourselves and the causes we seek to influence.
Evolutionary Leaders recognise that leadership is practice and not merely about theory and models. Leadership is a performance art. Powerfully showing up as a leader involves consciously engaging in embodied practices which facilitate the leaders capacity to:
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