Introducing Embodied Leadership – a One Day Course

You will be aware – to some extent – of discussions pertaining to the qualities of leadership. Leadership concepts are vitally important, especially in an increasingly stressful and pressurised world.

However, the concept of ‘embodiment’ is relatively new and, put simply, has emerged out of new understanding of the human constitution, informed, in turn, by improvements in especially; brain imaging, neurophysiology, and traumatology.

The simplest way of understanding ‘embodiment’ is ‘enhanced awareness and presence that takes into consideration the physical, bodily experience of emotion’. Emotions have been unavailable to science and medicine until brain imaging and other enhanced neurophysiological understanding improved sufficiently (over the last 40 years, roughly). Until then, concepts of emotion were simply left out because they could not be studied.

Now we realise that survival emotions and social emotions – their biochemistry and neurology – are the single most important factors in becoming ill and getting well, and in enhancing performance and relationships.

Phenomenology, biology and modern physics demonstrate that everything we perceive we perceive through the body. In fact the truth is that it is our bodies we perceive and not the environment; our brains receive sense impressions from the body’s response to environmental stimuli and produces interpretations. By far the biggest influence on such impressions is the biochemistry of emotion and movement. Most of the rest is visual.

Parallel discoveries in fields of neuroscience and evolutionary biology reveal how thoughts and feelings interweave. Most important is how negative body states and feelings arise, powerfully influencing these bodily sense impressions, and potentially  sabotaging our creativity, clarity, resilience, ability to communicate effectively, and undermine our wellbeing and health.

Human evolutionary neurobiology has wired in us survival circuits that can interfere with key faculties such as strategic thinking, decision-making, empathy and skilled communication. These crucial abilities require a coordination of limbic (emotional) brain and human forebrain. The survival-type stress responses in the more ancient reptilian (sensation-dominated) brain can rapidly interrupt and unhelpfully modify these faculties.

Yet positive body states and feelings can also be harnessed to our great benefit if we learn to access them, understand them and practice the necessary awareness.

One useful understanding of what drives human social behaviour – popular in the ‘neuroleadership’ community – involves looking at the concepts of Status, Certainty, Autonomy, Relatedness and Fairness (David Rock 2008). These qualities may seem abstract and lofty, but in fact they all involve the harnessing of survival circuits in the primitive brainstem. Preventing our individual and conditioned hyper-reactivity of these circuits is crucial to our ability to improving effective connectedness and communication in corporate settings. The only way to gain mastery over these brain circuits is by enhancing our ability to feel them in action in our body-selves; once they are made conscious, they can be modified.

In this seminar, we will incorporate relevant neuroscience and cutting-edge therapeutic models that show how the ability to embody emotional states restores healthy regulation and connection within ourselves, with others and our environment.

Quite apart from the consideration of leadership qualities like those mentioned above, there is the problem of ‘burnout’ – there is a worrying degree of ill-health among entrepreneurs and high-end executives. In the long-term, high demand emerges as early stage irritability, forgetfulness and exhaustion and often develops into cynicism, dissociation and health breakdown.  Work overload and declining job satisfaction can make difficult tasks feel impossible. How are contemporary leaders to sustain the clarity, enthusiasm and effort needed in stressful circumstances? Neuroscience shines light on ways of reducing burnout risks, for staying sharp under pressure and for regaining the resilience and energy to sustain performance in demanding work.

We will find that the same practices that enhance emotional embodiment and connectedness with nature and others also enhance our own physiological health and resilience.

The creativity and buoyancy of such people – who display enhanced connectedness and presence – makes organisations more productive and sustainable.

Learning aims:

Understand recent advances in mind-body science and their significance for healthy and effective leadership and management. We will learn…

… about the ‘triune brain’ – a useful model of brain functioning that has practical significance in our day to day lives

… the definition of emotions and feelings; why they are important for health, presence, and peak performance, and how we can harness their power and modify their influence.

… how our view of safety and connection in our lives and the world is affected by whether we are able to feel – connect with – our emotions.

… the value and utility of altered states of awareness that temporarily lay to rest the analytical, problem-solving, planning brain.

… how to persuade our brains to make conscious certain body states that are normally unconscious, so they can be understood and modified.

.… how to profoundly alter our neurological and physiological states by working with ancient breathing techniques.

… about Heart Rate Variability (HRV), its significance – for longevity, health and stress – and how to improve it.

… about the human being under pressure – the systems that run our fight, flight and freeze responses (the survival states). Are you a fighter, flee-er or a freezer? We will notice how   poor ability to feel emotion affects the functioning of such states.

… how to self-regulate our own instinctive responses so that they optimise.

… the reciprocal relationship between authenticity and creativity on the one hand, and survival states on the other.

… how to become aware of the biological basis of our reactivity so it can altered and optimally harnessed, and tthat the stress-hormone system holds the key to understanding the   development of ill health.

… the human Social Engagement System and the relationship between; the drive to bond with others, and the drive to keep safe.

Learning outcomes – you will….

    • Go beyond management from the head alone
    • Enjoy a wider grasp of the human condition
    • Have awareness skills that boost resilience and capacity for peak performance
    • Be more able to tap into and improve your own nervous system’s self-regulation
    • Be more aware of your personal responses to pressure and conflict
    • Think more clearly and respond more efficiently to personal and organisational stressors
    • Communicate more authentically and effectively
    • Understand authenticity and how to grow it
    • Stay centred amidst everyday chaos and recover more rapidly from stress
    • Improve professional and personal relationships
  • Feel a greater sense of wellbeing