In our Find Your Flavour – Circling Leadership Training my teaching partner Andrew and I speak a lot about ’embodying your leadership’. If you are interested in this field, you will likely have heard these terms a lot. But what does this actually mean – and how do we specifically work with it?
There is a huge difference between knowing and doing – and this is exactly the ride we take our participants on. The journey from realising to embodying is a process (that is one reason Find Your Flavour is a 6 month intensive), and it boils down to 3 simple – but not always easy – steps: notice, choose, act.
First of all you have to learn to notice when you not in your leadership. Or in other terms: when you have become reactive, defensive, triggered or in another way do not have access to your adult self. This means gaining a more sophisticated awareness on when you are triggered, reactive or in another way not present to the present – and how this shows up for you specifically. Do you withdraw? Do you lash out? Do you go into your head? We work with triggers as a frame that simply means something from your past is triggered that has nothing to do with what is actually happening right now.
Circling is an excellent modality for building this awareness, as you will get reflection from other participants on how they perceive you, and this can clash interestingly with your inner dialogue or story you have about yourself – or others. We call this ‘revealing your blind spots’.
These things you cannot figure out alone on your meditation pillow – because alone you will often stay stuck in the same story loops – you need other people for this. This is a beautiful, raw and intimate process (which is one reason Find Your Flavour has a maximum group size of 6 – so we get to know each other intimately and build trust and safety in the process).
The next step is choice. When you have built that awareness of noticing when you are not in the present, and lost your capacity to navigate the moment skilfully (in other words: you are not in your leadership), you have choice. In those moments of realisation you can choose to pause and not automatically follow the path of your story or belief. By learning to drop into the moment and into your body, you regain your capacity to name what is going on versus being unconsciously led by it. That is a huge step to reclaiming your leadership and this is where the embodiment part of ‘leadership embodiment’ starts really kicking in.
Unwinding the stories you have built about yourself and your place in the world over a life-time takes time. It will require sitting with the uncomfortability of them, but not necessarily believing them. It requires practising staying present, in our bodies, and not getting swept away into our stories. It requires receiving feedback from others that percieve you differently – and almost always in a more positive way than you perceive yourself.
These mechanisms we all have were once designed to keep us safe, and constructed by much younger versions of us, with less developed brains. They were often instinctive conclusions we drew (“I am only safe if I do not show my inner world”, “I am only loved when I am nice all the time”) – but they were almost always wrong. And that is what we unpack when we start practising making different choices. We practise staying in the moment, allowing ourselves to feel these scared parts, yet also building new wiring based on actual feedback we are getting from the group around us.
This may sound simple – but it is not always easy – it takes time for our bodies to unwind and trust this new reality. It takes time for our hearts and brains to realise we don’t have to moderate ourselves to be loved and safe, but can show up fully, with all of ourselves, and still be okay. And beyond that: to thrive and show up in the world in a way that is much bigger than we showed up before.
And the only way to get there is to practise. And that is the third step: act. If we keep realising “aah, I am doing this thing”, but not showing up differently, we get stuck in process loops. It is all about acting, trying out something new, taking a little risk and experimenting. That is the only way you can give your whole system the feedback that you won’t die if you try something new (although it might feel like that sometimes – to those younger selves), build your connection to your adult self, and teach your body, mind and heart that your old conclusions were wrong and that you are wanted as your full self.
We do this gradually, stretching ourselves, but still being able to stay present while we embark on these experiments. The container of the training is the perfect laboratory to practise in, before you take it out into your bigger world. And the group is a beautiful context to cheer you on, challenge and nudge you, and again offer that rich feedback. People want you to show up fully, and you get to experience that!
So, leadership embodiment, for us, is the process of over and over coming back to the present moment, and learning to build the capacity and sensitivity to know what is really going on in you. It is about letting go of your stories, descending from your head to your heart and body, and feeling what you are experiencing in the moment. And then really owning it – whatever is going on. It is about learning to differentiate between reactivity and trigger and what is happening right here, right now. And it is also the bravery of staying with uncomfortable feelings and sensations and building the trust that these experiences don’t have to be true, and there is a bigger, wider, adult capacity in you that can hold it all. And most importantly, it is about acting from a new, conscious place, that includes all of you, but where you get to decide who is at the wheel.
What is it not?
It is not about rejecting your brain. Brains are great tools, and a part of our experience. It is also not about having to be perfect and never get triggered (that will never happen); it is about learning when you get triggered and how to get back to a more balanced, proactive state, by returning to the present moment, your body, and your present experience.
Do you want to build your leadership embodiment capacity and show up more fully?
Then this training might be for you. We are currently enrolling people for cohort 5, starting in October.
Follow this link for more information and the prerequisites for signing up. And if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.