Maria Connolly, LPC

Category: Embodied Leadership

Embodied leadership means you bring out the best in yourself and others, as you’re always fully aware of what your mind and body are saying to you and them.Embodied Leadership involves the way you speak, the language you use, the way you position your body, the harmony you feel by being fully present, and the calming and reassuring messages you convey to others. When you practice embodied leadership you’re able to value, motivate, and bring out the best in yourself and others.

Principles of Aikido Empower Embodied Leaders to be Calm under Crisis

These principles of Aikido teach business leaders to create a powerful personal and business presence that leaves you peaceful despite the chaos around you.Would you like to fully develop your potential for leadership? The principles of Aikido (The Way of Harmony or Peace) can help you. Aikido is a unique form of martial arts that emphasizes the blending of energy, rather than resisting it or attacking. It lets you peaceably deal with conflict by taking the energy directed at you and neutralizing it or diverting it. Aikido helps you be extremely calm, focused, and effective in the midst of chaos. In the process you learn to handle yourself around others with confidence and it gives you a powerful presence as an embodied leader.

Aikido heightens your sense of the mind/body connection. It strengthens your capacity to find and maintain a sense of calm while staying vigilantly aware. You develop an alert relaxation that appears to be very still but is highly engaged with your surroundings. With practice, you can become very stable AND ready to move with 100% of your power at will.

What principles of aikido serve business leaders best in today’s high-stress, high-demand world?

Be balanced and centered. If you feel like you’re under attack, you’re out of balance and are possibly operating from a place of disrespect or distrust. Instead of giving in to the fight or flight response or freezing up, you can use centering and breathing techniques that promote emotional calmness and mental alertness that enable you to respond gracefully to even the most stressful situations. The loss of a centered mind results in loss of balance as you instinctively start to fight for control. A centered and balanced mind doesn’t need to fight, control, or dominate.

Be calm. Many business leaders get caught up in reacting emotionally to everything, living in drama so that they’re always putting out fires. You can deepen your mind’s capacity for calmness. If you feel calm, you can maintain calm under any circumstance. Aikido teaches you to get closer to your attacker and move in the same direction as he is, which may seem counterintuitive, but is a very powerful life skill for diffusing tense situations.

Be fully present and aware. Too many people are disconnected or distracted from the here and now because of worrying about the past or the future. Or they’re so busy thinking of what they’ll say next they aren’t listening to what’s being said. By becoming fully aware of the other person or of the situation, without being attached to a preconceived outcome, you can build a harmonious relationship with what’s happening. By doing so, you get out of your own way and develop the ability to access your intuitive self. You learn to succeed by surrendering.

Be open and adaptable. The fear of losing control in actuality spins a person out of control. Let the situation unfold without resisting. Rather than letting your mind lead you, learn how to lead your mind. Become comfortable with not knowing everything, which in turns opens you up to creative solutions that are best for everyone on your team.

Be proactive and responsible. While it’s easy to make excuses for why something doesn’t work, an embodied business leader takes responsibility, provides guidance and support as he or she start influencing others to do their best. For those who are painfully shy, introverted, and uncomfortable in social situations, the principles of aikido teach you to assert yourself in relationships without being aggressive. You learn to successfully lead a person, so that he or she willingly follows. This is an invaluable skill for you in your role as an embodied leader.

You have the tools to deal effectively with conflict within you. You just need to find them. Just as silence is always present even if there’s a great deal of noise going on around you, you can experience silence if you shut out the distractions and listen for it. In the same way, you have the capacity for peace and calm under all stressful situations. You just need to learn to access it.

When you achieve peace, no one is going to take it away from you. Only you can give your peace away. With that simple understanding, you know that conflict is not about you, it’s about them and their insecurities. By modeling your peace, you can diffuse sticky situations and improve not only your life but the lives of those around you

Would you like to learn more about how a complete body/mind approach can help you excel in life and business as you step fully into your embodied leadership role? Contact me and I’d be happy to set up a somatic coaching session with you in person in Ashland, Oregon or via Skype. And don’t forget to get your free copy of “The 7-Point Body Wellness Assessment”, so you can build your life on a solid foundation.

Finding Your True Self – The Key to Embodied Leadership

Embodied leadership requires you finding your true self, not what you’re comfortable with right now, but unlocking your authentic self with integrity.“Behind your thoughts and feelings, my brother, there stands a mighty commander, an unknown wise man— he is called Self.  He lives in your body, he is your body.  There is more reason in your body than in your best wisdom.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Has there been an opportunity in your life where you know you should step up and take the lead? But you find yourself thinking, “That’s not me. I could never be a good leader.” If you’ve thought this, it may be time you invested some effort into finding your true self.

Now usually when people think of being true to themselves, they’re thinking of what comes easily to them, what is comfortable to them, what’s familiar, what they’re used to doing and being. That’s not what I’m referring to when I say finding your true self.

The truth is who you are today isn’t who you were last year, nor does it have to be who you will become tomorrow. Much of who you are – your strengths, weaknesses, desires, and ambitions – may be attributed to genetics and the surroundings you grew up in. Yet you don’t have to be bound by the whole nature-versus-nurture debate. Because beyond those factors, is the empowering truth that you have the greatest gift of choice. You can choose to become whoever you want to be.

So it would be a mistake to limit yourself by self-imposed boundaries. Being your authentic self means embracing what and who you are now AND actively unlocking the full potential of what and who you can dynamically become through mindful, personal growth. And not just doing this as a brain exercise but with a somatic approach, as you create a greater awareness of how your thoughts guide your body to act and respond. This awareness allows you to be present in the reality of now, but also unlocks the potential for choosing a better, more fully developed way to be.

Finding your true self is on ongoing process. We shape ourselves through the self-narrative process – the stories we tell ourselves and others.

To illustrate this simply…

If you tell yourself you’re fearful, you’ll tense your muscles, your vocal cords will tighten, and your teeth will clench. And no matter how hard you try to hide it, it still shows. However, if you tell yourself you’re safe, you relax. People around you can sense what’s going on within your inner self, your authentic self.

We’ve all seen leaders who have people eating out of their hands. How do they do that? Well, charismatic leaders have mastered a way to manipulate the emotions without delivering genuine substance. That’s a here today, gone tomorrow approach.

Embodied leaders, on the other hand, have the heart to connect with people on their level, building rapport and trust as they deliver value and substance. Their whole demeanor – their facial expressions, their words, the tone of voice, their body language – exudes confidence, helpfulness, and trustworthiness. Yet did you realize they are also feeling the fear and anxiety that you do? That’s part of the human experience.

Embodied leaders have learned that being your authentic self means being aware of these conflicting emotions and owning them, balancing them, resolving them, as you choose the ones that serve you in any particular situation. That choice leads you to acknowledging those feelings to the group and then consciously using your body to reveal feelings that your audience needs to see. Yes, you are fearful. But you chose courage and determination to be your dominant attitude. So through employing somatic techniques your body relaxes, opens up and connects with them.


Creating an authentically, embodied leadership through finding your true self involves primarily three things:

  1. Being vulnerable enough to expose your real self without fear of rejection, knowing that expressing vulnerability fully engages with and establishes trust.
  2. Being present without blame and relating to others as you inquire of their feelings, values, and strengths, thereby seeing the best in them, that their motives and desires are good.
  3. Being strong enough to stand up for your values, while making executive choices, putting personal preferences aside, so as to benefit the group as a whole.

If you’re still saying, “That’s not me”, but deep down you’re saying, “I wish it was me”, then never stop searching for how you can expand, refine and dig deeper into your potential. Try out new ways of being as you continue finding your true self. You don’t have to make this journey alone. I would love to work with you. Contact me and we can work in-person if you can commute to Ashland, Oregon. Or we can work together via Skype. Nothing is unattainable for you, when you try.

Embodied Leadership – How to Bring Out the Best in You and Everyone Around You

Embodied leadership means you bring out the best in yourself and others, as you’re always fully aware of what your mind and body are saying to you and them.“We don’t need leaders who know about leadership. We need leaders who embody the capacity to lead in the midst of ambiguity and complexity.” ~ Pete Hamill

Does it feel like something is missing from the way dictionaries define leadership – “someone who guides, directs, controls, manages, or supervises a group of people or an organization”? People may comply when they are controlled or managed but it doesn’t create a team environment that fosters a synergy where, as a group, you accomplish greater things than you ever could as individuals.

If that synergy – which brings out the best in yourself and others – is what you’re interested in, then I’d like to introduce you to embodied leadership. It involves the way you speak, the language you use, the way you position your body, the harmony you feel by being fully present, and the calming and reassuring messages you convey to others. Ultimately, it’s about the quality of your presence and your way of being. When you practice embodied leadership you’re able to value, motivate, and bring out the best in yourself and the people around you.

Embodied leadership isn’t something you do – it’s who you are. By learning to connect the mind with the body and soul, and to lead with purpose, you can “lead at a deeper levels of self-awareness, developing your abilities to be the leader you want to be, and achieving what you are committed to achieving,” as stated by Pete Hamill. (He’s the author of Embodied Leadership – The Somatic Approach to Leadership, a book I highly recommend).

Somebody who embodies leadership in all aspects of life has a clear vision for how she wants her life to be – her personal life, her family, her home, and how she want to contribute to helping other people. It will make her a better wife, mother, friend, boss, advocate, or neighbor.

As women, we may tend toward feeling powerless at times and unable to compete in the world of male-dominated leadership. But you don’t need to compete. When you connect authentically with yourself, you can release the most important power any leader can have – not the power to dominate and control – but the power to build authentic relationships and empower others to make things happen. True leadership isn’t about barking out orders, but it’s the ability to sort out the chaos and come up with solutions that keeps the group moving forward.

How do you develop your embodied leadership potential?

Start by being more mindful of your body. For example, a 2010 study showed that open, expansive postures results in actual hormonal and neurochemical changes (testosterone elevates and cortisol, the stress hormone, lessens). And the subjects of the study gained a greater feeling of power and tolerance for risk, whether they were male or female. While contracted, closed postures had the opposite effect. 

Becoming more comfortable in your own skin is the first step to embodied leadership. The somatic approach to leadership assists you in centering yourself. It gives you the awareness to see where you hold tension, and teaches you how to release it gently. It gives you the confidence and poise to stand up for what you believe to be true and important, so you can assert yourself without fear. If you’re ready to step into your own power more fully, I’d be happy to guide you. Contact me to learn more. We can work in person if you live near Ashland, Oregon, or via Skype if you live elsewhere.

This is the beginning of a series on Embodied Leadership. You’ll find the next installments below.

Read related information on Embodied Leadership:

Develop Leadership Skills in Women Who Want to Make a Difference

Women in Leadership Who Excel Have High Emotional Intelligence

20 Amazing Benefits of Applying Embodied Leadership Principles to Your Relationships

Finding Your True Self – The Key to Embodied Leadership

Principles of Aikido Empower Embodied Leaders to be Calm under Crisis

How Embodied Leadership Succeeds Where Other Leadership Styles Fail

15 Highly Organized Characteristics of a Leader to Create a Lifestyle You Love

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