Leadership Presence is a Practice, Not a Present by Anouk Brack

Blog by Anouk Brack – co-director of Experience Integral and certified Leadership Embodiment Assocaite

Thinking of great men and women like Mandela and Mother Teresa, it seems their wisdom comes with such ease and grace. It is easy to assume they were born this way. They weren’t. True, perhaps a certain innate talent or calling has been with them since birth. However, this did not make them the real life saints they are today. Presence takes practice. The Dalai Lama for instance is said to meditate at least 5 hours a day1. Embodying compassion and wisdom doesn’t just happen. It is cultivated.

In your work, do you find yourself in challenging or even stressful situations? Do you ever think back on such a situation wishing you had had the presence of mind to respond in a kinder, clearer way? You know you have it in you because you often have had friendly and clear interactions with people. So, what is the difference?

What makes the difference between a snappy, reactive response and a calm, compassionate response is your state of being. Did something trigger you?

When we get triggered our bodies and mind contract. More basic brain functions take over. A survival pattern kicks in. It is uniquely ours and takes command of our body, thoughts, speech and actions. We – our awareness and presence – temporarily go offline. A custom made combination of fight, flight and/or freeze behavior takes over and ensures control, approval or safety in the situation.

When a basic level of control, approval and/or safety is felt to have been recovered, our awareness comes back online. Often we immediately feel regret about the way we have just behaved. It kind of happened to us. We were beside ourselves.

It is in these moments that I could not be further away from being a living saint. I aspire to cultivate wisdom and compassion in my life, especially in challenging moments that trigger my survival patterns. The good news is that presence is a practice and not a present. So, I can cultivate “my muscles” for recovering my awareness and presence through a practice called centering. This is the fundamental practice of Leadership Embodiment. With it we practice being fully human. I don’t make my reactive patterns go away, I study them. That way I recognize them sooner and have a choice. I can re-center myself. The founder of Aikido – a Japanese martial art that inspired Leadership Embodiment- said: It is not that I stay balanced all the time, I just recover so fast, nobody notices.”

A quick way to re-center yourself is to sit up in a way that is both relaxed and alert, to breath in and imagine the breath going up the spine, lengthening the neck, to breath out, imagine it going down the front, giving jaw and shoulders more to gravity. Become aware of the immediate space around you, in front and behind, left and right and above and below. Make the space a little bit bigger. Now ask yourself “What would it be like if I had a little bit more ease in my body right now?” Feel the answer manifesting in your body.

Did your state of being change, even slightly? Did it take long? Would you like to be more fluent in this process?

The fundamentals of Leadership Embodiment –LE level 1 – are an integral part of Conscious Leadership for Sustainability course, offered by Experience Integral. Anouk Brack is a by Wendy Palmer certified Leadership Embodiment teacher.

For the full article, see the original blog.