Regular Leadership Practice: An approach to develop leadership confidence and resilience
Author: Anna Coen, AC Integration
Regular Leadership Practice: What is it?
The regular practice of “leadership drills” that involve our minds and bodies can transform how we feel about ourselves as leaders and the impact we have on others.
This approach teaches the use of these “leadership drills”, or exercises, to build leadership gravitas and resilience.
These drills engage both the body and the mind. They are set in a leadership context by helping you to: know and articulate what you stand for; connect with and inspire others; feel safe enough to take courageous action. Fundamental to all the exercises is a focus on developing your self-awareness and learning how to feel balanced and grounded.
Why is it different?
We hold our history and habits in our muscle memory as well as in our minds. Our physical shape and emotional responses are significant drivers of our behaviour. This approach is based on the premise that to make significant and lasting difference you have to consider your whole physiology including sensing, feeling, thinking and moving. You work towards embodying the change by using your body to guide you as a leader and by practising new skills on a regular basis.
To master any skill and create a new habit we need to practise. To change an old habit we are going against ‘homeostasis’ (the tendency for our thoughts and behaviours to return to a habitual equilibrium) and therefore we need to practise the new habit over and over. A reason we sometimes forget what we have learnt on leadership programmes and allow business as usual to take over is that the practices we have learnt are not embodied. Exercises that involve our minds and bodies, practised on a regular basis, will help us embody the learning and enable permanent shifts to take place.
Why is it important?
It is important because the demands of leadership are increasing in a climate of uncertainty and universal access to knowledge and networks. Position and experience do not result in automatic respect. I see exhausted leaders trying to do more and more in a terrain of shifting sands. I see enthusiastic and aspiring leaders trying to navigate a more balanced life. I see leaders struggling to lead in a way that finds the right balance between the individual and the team.
By discovering yourself and being comfortable in your own skin you can begin to move with strength and fluidity through choppy waters. Through regular practice at a physiological level you will develop the confidence to stand up for yourself and connect with others.
Two examples of leadership drills
Build your confidence by sensing your legs
When working with individuals who want to develop their gravitas and confidence, I have noticed the significance of how they connect with and position their legs. Even high achieving individuals can appear to move gingerly as if skating along the ground with their feet close together tapered inwards from their hips. Their knees are often locked and if they paid attention to what is happening to their bodies they may notice they are holding their breath. The impression this gives is one of uncertainty and lack of confidence.
Your legs provide stability and at the same time underpin action.
Start by noticing your feet and the quality of the pressure between the soles of your feet and the ground. Can you feel the upward pressure of the ground? Do you have a sense of gravity? Try stomping your feet a few times. Once you are aware of your feet and the floor, scan upwards and really connect with your legs from your ankles through to your thighs. Sense the muscles, the bones and the skin all the way up to your hips. Remember to breathe and if you can, breathe as if into your legs.
Start walking and notice any difference in your sense of solidity, your movement and your confidence.
Build your courage by strengthening your back
urage is usually associated with facing down our fears. What I notice when I am facing something uncomfortable such as a difficult conversation or a major presentation are a range of unpleasant sensations: queasiness in my abdomen, a quickening heart rate and a tightness of breath. I can even begin to shake. I may, then either turn away or freeze. I feel as though my courage may fail me.
Your back can provide support and strength.
Bring attention to your back. Put your back against a wall to get a real sense of the breadth and depth of it. Notice the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Scan down your spine and backbone. As you breathe notice your lungs move and notice your back expand. Your back gives you strength. As you practise awareness of your back your breathing may return to normal.
Start moving and notice how you ‘back yourself’.
The regular practice of leadership drills that involve our minds and bodies can transform how we feel about ourselves as leaders, and the impact we have on others.
The 10-week Leadership Practice Programme with Anna Coen takes place in Cambridge from 19th February. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/2noby2K
About the Author
Anna Coen specialises in helping people develop their leadership presence and confidence.
Anna is a Certified Somatic Coach with the Strozzi Institute and has a Certificate in Higher Education in Counselling from Cambridge University. Anna specialises in coaching and leadership development for leaders and aspiring leaders who want to both develop their strategic capability and deepen their capacity to inspire others. Anna is an FCA, has lived and breathed the professional, commercial and learning environment for more than 30 years. Through a variety of practices that engage the mind and body she provides clients with frameworks and exercises that help clients to strengthen their resilience and feel comfortable in their own skin.