A Body-Centered Approach to Leadership

For sensitive humans who want to claim authority and step into leadership without going into overwhelm.

We all need to step into leadership roles at some point in our life. The more visibility and responsibility leaders have, the more heightened and special that role becomes. Much of the skill needed to navigate it well has to do with awareness and attention.

Unfortunately, the most common frameworks I see in the coaching world for effective leadership are stressful, complicated, and even scary for sensitive people to navigate in the real world.

18 steps, 6 major styles, and on and on. What a huge cognitive load.

I’m sure that this brilliant information has been tried and tested, is useful and true. It makes sense when your read it on the page. The question is, can you, as a sensitive human, actually use it when it’s needed?

All that cognitive brilliance is most needed at moments when demands on our nervous system are high, and we often can’t think clearly.

For example, what happens when you step out in front of a group of other humans, especially ones that you have authority over in some way?

You may tense up, hold your breath, and forget everything you learned. And, that would be normal.

You may forget what you were going to say. Your brain can only think one thing at a time, but you’ve got 8 things you think you are supposed to look and feel and do all at once.

However, you can’t just “be yourself” either. Being in a leadership position is specific and particular, a naturally heightened state to be in. If you respect that, then it makes sense to intentionally tune in to embodied presence first, before you start activating the cognitive frameworks.

This only works if you have simple, clear ways of tuning in to your body awareness. Singular steps that you can remember under stress.

There’s a big difference between cognitive control and embodied presence.

Embodiment practices don’t require you to feel or think anything in particular. Instead, you skillfully guide your own attention in the present moment for your own benefit. The horse is sensory awareness, and the cart is your cognitive brilliance. Horse pulls cart…remember?

These three common misconceptions about authority can heighten cognitive overload as well:

– Authority means separation from others.

– A person in a position of authority must generate energy and inspiration for others.

– Leaders must project an image of success towards others.

Specific attention to your present moment sensory experience can powerfully counteract those misconceptions by connecting you with what’s going on right now, in this moment.

Attention simply means sensory experience, and you have millions of choices about how to use it.

It helps to have clear physical intentions so your brain feels safe to come along for the ride.

The exercise in the video explores:

  • Projecting attention and energy into the forward space
  • Returning to center, receiving awareness as it comes towards you
  • Activating expansive awareness of the space on either side of your body

Vision, hearing, a 3D body schema, and your sense of space are all super easy to tap into without much practice. Simple lateral eye movements (side to side) are known to calm fear and create happiness and calm.

I’ve been playing with this side-to-side awareness recently, and it’s surprisingly powerful yet calming. I’ve noticed that if I simply activate my own side-awareness, people who may have invaded my personal space tend to back off.

It also helps to end a conversation that has gone on too long without being rude. If you simply let go of forward focus on the person you are speaking to and notice your peripheral visual field the tiniest bit, they pick up the non-verbal cues and step back. It’s magic!

Claiming space and claiming authority are best friends.

It doesn’t have to be a fake power pose or a big energy drain. It could simply start with a delicate movement of your own, inclusive awareness. Magic!

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