While traditional gender biases still put men in leadership roles and women in supportive roles, in today’s economic climate this concept is being turned upside down. Leadership roles throughout a company’s organizational structure – from executive to supervisors to team leaders – are benefiting greatly from the unique style women leaders bring to the table.
To demonstrate that women certainly have the skills needed for leadership positions, a survey conducted by Harvard Business Review ranked women significantly higher than men for 12 of the top 16 competencies in which leaders must excel. This was so, despite the preconceived notion that men would typically perform better.
The leadership qualities they ranked are:
- Takes Initiative
- Practices Self-development
- Displays High Integrity and Honesty
- Drives for Results
- Develops Others
- Inspires and Motivates Others
- Builds Relationships
- Collaboration and Teamwork
- Establishes Stretch Goals
- Champions Change
- Solves Problems and Analyzes Issues
- Communicates Powerfully and Clearly
- Connects the Group to the Outside World
- Technical or Professional Expertise
- Develops Strategic Perspective (This is the only one where men outscored women significantly.)
Do you notice that most of these skills are related to emotional intelligence? This means they encompass an ability to 1) identify and manage one’s own emotions, 2) identify and understand someone else’s emotions, and 3) relate well to others personally and professionally even under the most stressful situations. This requires that a person be self-aware, self-regulating and empathetic. These relationship-based skills are ones wherein women certainly excel.
Practicing embodied leadership accelerates the attainment of these qualities. Mindful awareness allows you to really feel and identify your emotions, so you can express them in a constructive way. A leader who embodies these qualities will manage stress and enhance the cooperative spirit of her team. She’s able to keep the lines of communication open as she soothes her own ruffled emotions and those of others. She’s able to “read” what the body language of others is telling her.
Emotional intelligence is twice as valuable as IQ in the business world, since the emotional health of the team directly impacts productivity, motivation, engagement and loyalty. An embodied leader who is emotionally intelligent will be able to:
- Restore calm out of chaos
- Express emotions not squelch them
- Have conversations not confrontations
- Diffuse tricky situations
- Negotiate calmly
- Listen without becoming defensive
- Benefit from criticism
- Keep a positive, resilient attitude despite setbacks
- Inspire respect and loyalty
- Build trust and rapport
- Be a self-starter who delights in accomplishment not position.
The best way to learn is by following the example of others. Would you like to read about women who have excelled in their leadership roles? I highly recommend the book, Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business, and Life.
Even though women have these exemplary skills, they often do lack one thing that men, by nature, exude. They lack confidence in themselves and their abilities. Because women are often more concerned about keeping their home life together, or are afraid of being viewed as unfeminine and aggressive, or they’re reluctant to reach out because of discrimination, they aren’t using their skills to the full. If you’re ready to step out of your comfort zone so as to embrace a more fulfilling lifestyle, I would love to partner with you. Contact me and we can work together in Ashland, OR or via Skype.
Over the course of the last few weeks we’ve been discussing various aspects of embodied leadership for women. It’s not something you do – it’s who you are. The way you speak, the words you choose, your body positioning, all reflect the harmony you feel by being fully present.
People follow leaders because they’re inspired by their presence and way of being, not by how smart they are or what position they hold. When you become an embodied leader who lives the life that you teach, you’ll build trust quickly and inspire others to achieve excellence.
Remember, embodied leadership results from collaboration between body, mind and spirit – the whole YOU. An excellent leader provides a model that embodies the good that others want to achieve in all areas of their own lives. Let’s recap what this means…
Body: To lead others, it’s important to model how to be physically fit. An awareness of what you’re body is telling you and what it’s revealing to others is essential to creating a presence that inspires confidence. When your body is congruent with your mind and spirit, you’ll be able to control the physiological responses to stress and you’ll feel at peace even under the most trying situations.
Mind: To lead others takes mental discipline. Developing emotional intelligence increases your ability to concentrate and focus, observe and release negative self-talk, calm your emotions, see the possibilities as you visualize positive outcomes, and be fully present in and accepting of difficult situations.
Spirit: To lead others, your passion must shine. When you’re firmly grounded in your own spirit, you never need to feel challenged or defensive, but you remain open and accepting. You’re able to hold onto your own values while helping your clients achieve what is most important to them.
When you embody or truly live what you believe, people can see that you’re balanced and centered, and they want that for themselves. This is what creates an authentic connection with others.
What are some other benefits to you and your relationships when you excel at embodied leadership skills? You’ll be able to:
- Improve physical, emotional and mental endurance, strength, and agility.
- Increase your self-confidence and composure by remaining centered.
- Keep your compassion through awareness of others.
- Sharpen your concentration, focus and visualization.
- Be organized and goal oriented so you achieve your best life ever.
- Stand out in your industry as a thought-leader.
- Stay committed to your goals in the midst of complexity.
- Use body language to clearly communicate your core beliefs with conviction.
- Read the intentions, motivations and abilities of the people around you.
- Have honest, courageous conversations about the most difficult subjects.
- Enhance and support your own mind/body/spirit and that of others.
- Resolve conflict as you learn to let situations unfold without resistance.
- Build trust as you listen carefully and proactively provide solutions.
- Act decisively while maintaining important relationships.
- Anticipate and address potential problems rather than reacting to them.
- Create opportunities for effective action in emotionally charged environments.
- Increase your own accountability and that of others.
- Enable people to self-correct by giving well-chosen feedback.
- Motivate and influence others to take action.
- Fine-tune your awareness as you see what others need and desire.
Coaching is an investment you make in yourself to create the life you truly want. Meaningful results require a commitment. Please contact me to schedule an “Unlocking Your Potential” 30-minute complimentary consultation with me, in-person, by phone or via Skype, so we can explore our coaching partnership.
It’s commonly assumed that good leadership styles are mostly mind or personality based. Although it’s recognized that leaders should look the part too, being physically fit and well groomed. And some even give consideration to speech training and the way a person carries herself. But beyond that the body isn’t thought about much…
That’s a mistake because ultimately what’s inspiring is a leader’s presence and way of being.
An embodied leader is aware that planning and leading are definitely whole mind/body/spirit activities. And that’s what makes business leaders who have embodied leadership skills so different and more much effective.
Take for example a leader we’ll call Sarah.
She’s so busy she doesn’t have time for breakfast as she rushes off to meet her team. They greet her with demands that pull her in eight different directions. She tries to handle them all at once, while not giving any of them the attention they deserve. Oh, her frustration and stress levels are rising. She has deadlines to meet, so she cancels another lunch date with her best friend…again! She just hates putting her friend off like that, but she couldn’t have eaten a bite anyway.
The presentation scheduled this afternoon is making her sick to her stomach. And no, she can’t make it to the gym today. She’s must keep her doctor’s appointment because her blood pressure pills need to be adjusted and she want to talk with the doc about getting something for the anxiety and depression that’s closing in on her.
Everyone thinks she has it all together. That she’s so successful. She looks like a leader. Yet she’s falling apart inside. Something is drastically wrong. Her leadership style is impossible to maintain.
Are you starting to see that effective leadership styles requires that the body be completely congruent with the mind?
A successful leader must be able to intervene in his or her own physiological responses to stress and have the awareness to know which decisions are going to support the things that are really important in life.
Sarah, from the above story, wants to be calm and collected. She has every intention of reaching her goals for having a successful business, strong friendships and good health. Yet as stress is introduced, her body betrays her. Because she’s only thinking with her conscious mind of doing the things she know good leaders do, her body rebels, because it reverts back to patterns that have been formed by a lifetime of habits.
Your habits live not only in your memories, but in your tissues and cells. The body remembers. Embodied awareness lets you hear what your body is saying. It helps you watch yourself from an outside perspective. Then you can engage in practices that develop your ability to take more effective actions. In time, you develop a new muscle memory that lets you do things you couldn’t have done before, whether it’s being calm under crisis or being an assertive introvert.
Extreme stress can cause a mind/body disconnect that makes people act in crazy ways. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “She’s not herself today.” When stress triggers an interaction in our brain between the hypothalamus, which regulates hormones and the amygdala, which assigns emotional significance to an event, the fight or flight stress response takes over the conscious mind. Normally you wouldn’t scream, yell, shake, and cry, but the brain/body disconnect makes you behave in a way that’s foreign to you.
Let’s put it in another way…you may know you’re not supposed to run from a bear, but your legs don’t believe you. This is a really dangerous mind/body disconnect that gets you in trouble. Because the next thing you know you’re trying to outrun a bear…not a good idea!
So what can embodied leadership principles do for you that other leadership styles do not?
It supports you as you make slow and steady progress toward a strong awareness of your mind/body/spirit connection. Through mindfulness, centering, somatic exercises, breathing techniques, and NLP anchoring techniques you learn how to be present in the moment of stress in a relaxed, unattached way. It gives you time and the skills to slow down, be fully mindful so your actions truly reflect a peaceful state of mind. If you’d like to work with me as you master these skills, I’d be honored for you to contact me. We can set up a time to meet in person at my Ashland, Oregon office or via Skype.
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.
“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:
- Being vulnerable enough to expose your real self without fear of rejection, knowing that expressing vulnerability fully engages with and establishes trust.
- 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.
- 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.