If you have ever been around a great leader – be it a boss, a parent, a famous politician – you will have experienced their embodied presence. The way they enter the room, the way they command respect as they speak, and the way they make you feel seen and listened to.
Thinking of your own leadership strengths, capabilities and personal style, how much attention to you dedicate to how you embody your leadership? Do you spend all the time in your own head, thinking about plans, ideas, strategies and numbers? Could you allow your body to take on a larger role than that of a brain-taxi and clothes-hanger? Here are some ways to make your body work for you:
Get yourself together and stand your ground
While your mind tends to run off in all possible directions, your body always lives in the present moment, always in a particular time and place. The fact that the body is always present can help to you to ground yourself and master your emotions in stressful situations. Whenever you get off-balance, re-center yourself by coming back into your body: Feel your feet on the ground; and your bum on the chair if you are sitting; relax the area between your eyes, relax your tongue and your belly. Imagine your center of gravity in your lower belly, and breathe down to that area.
Change your physiology – change your state and how you are perceived
Our physiology communicates a lot about who we are – and how we are. By changing our physiology, we can change not only how others see us but also our mental and emotional state. In her famous TED talk, Amy Cuddy explains how “power-posing” increases our confidence. In a similar way, going for a walk helps to get your mind unstuck and get ideas flowing.
Depending on the type of presence you want to embody, you may need to balance your posture, movement patterns, and energy in a different way. For example, authority is embodied differently than empathy.
Use your body as a real communication tool
Our visual memory is stronger than our audio memory. That is, we are much more likely to remember an image, a facial expression, or a gesture, than what a person actually said. Let your body visualize what you are talking about. Imagine talking to a hearing impaired audience – what signs would you use to transmit your message? In a similar way, how do you visually represent the kind of leader you want to be? Use your space, posture, gestures, and movement to embody your leadership presence!