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Embodying leadership: The six directions

by | Body language, Executive presence


Are you familiar with the word embodiment? It’s a “tangible, visible form of an idea, quality, or a feeling” – such as your body and body language! At any given moment, your body and your gestures represent, manifest and express your emotions and your views. Mark Walsh at Integration Training defines embodiment as how we shape ourselves to let leadership come through us – to let our natural authority speak through our bodies. Being aware of your body and being able to consciously embody leadership does not only have a positive impact on how others react to you, but also on your own thoughts and emotions.

Let’s explore the six different directions in which our bodies can expand: up – down (height), in – out (width), and forward – back (depth).


The downward direction represents identity, firmness, and stability. If you need to be more grounded, plant your feet firmly in the floor, with feet hip width apart. Relax your shoulders, legs and knees. Push down with your palms towards the floor a few times.


Upward movement expresses vision, lightness, imagination, and joy. Maybe you have both feet on the ground, but so deeply rooted that you are becoming inflexible? To add some “lift” to your body, raise your arms above your head, look up, and breathe. Then relax your arms down, let your head be level and feel your neck being aligned with your spine.


In stands for containment, reflection, and attention to detail. If this is what you need more of, put your head down and press your palms together in front of your chest for a few seconds.


The outward movement signals confidence, communication and openness. To promote outward expansion, stand with your feet wide apart and your arms straight out to the sides, with an open chest and open upper back – like a Da Vinci- man.


Forward movement symbolizes future and courage. Move your weight forward to the balls of your feet, and put one leg forward.


Leaning or moving backwards signals attachment to the past, or wanting to keep a distance. Your weight is on your heels, one leg may take a step back.

Which directions do your body tend to favour? Do you need to expand in a different direction for balance? And what are you embodying at this very moment?