Leadership Embodiment is a set of simple practices designed to improve access to creativity, even in stressful situations. It encourages self-reflection and -discovery through mindfulness and draws inspiration from the non-violent Japanese martial art Aikido. Its founder, Wendy Palmer, developed Leadership Embodiment to help others increase their leadership capacity and face challenges with greater confidence and integrity.
Coach, author and trainer Anouk Brack has been practising Leadership Embodiment since 2010. She regularly teaches and writes on the topic. Below, Anouk shares what Leadership Embodiment is, how it has impacted her life and how it can benefit you, regardless of your role or experience.
Before Leadership Embodiment entered my life, I had studied biology. I wanted to understand life better—especially how the brain works and how we can develop our potential. I’ve always been interested in finding out how we as humans can contribute positively to the world around us while also taking good care of ourselves.
That led me to a 15-year career in professional development, teaching presentation skills, intercultural skills, negotiation skills and leadership skills on the university level. I eventually founded my own coaching practice and soon discovered Leadership Embodiment through an introductory course with Wendy Palmer. I thought, ‘Finally!’A modality that combines my interest in neurology with a focus on what we as individuals contribute—and how we achieve the optimal state to make that contribution.
The fundamental practice of Leadership Embodiment is centering. Centering is a method that can help you in so many different situations, whether you’re responding to criticism, facing a challenge, or preparing yourself for success. To center ourselves, we use our posture, our breath and our focus to shift into a more resourceful state.
We know our thoughts, posture and feelings are connected. In Leadership Embodiment, we use that knowledge for the better. We think, ‘If this is the posture that fits my flow state—my centered state, my best self—then I can assume that posture and bring myself into that state.’ It sounds almost too good to be true, but it really works.
And based on that simple principle, we learn other techniques that can help in specific situations. There’s also a quick version of centering that I call ‘turbo-centering’. It’s a one-breath version that you can do in one breath.
In the West, we don’t really think about space that much. There’s me and there’s you. But the space in between is just empty, right?
Actually, it’s not. Leadership Embodiment teaches us that when we’re aware of
the space around us (even if it’s virtual Zoom-call space), it communicates to everyone in the space: ‘We’re in this together’. So biologically, we’re entering the situation together on the right foot.
Working with space awareness increases our capacity for inclusivity and connection. It improves your ability to inspire other people to embrace your ideas, for instance, without pushing them. And those are aspects that Leadership Embodiment has clarified for me much further than other modalities.
Leadership Embodiment distinguishes between our ‘personality self’ and our ‘centered self’. Our ‘personality self’ is really ourselves on a bad day. We’re still ourselves, but we’re not really proud of ourselves the next day. Maybe we were too aggressive, or maybe we lacked the confidence to contribute positively to a situation.
When I was writing my first book, my personality self tried to sabotage the project before it even got started. It’s that little voice that says, ‘Does the world really need another book about leadership?’ And ‘Are you the right person to be writing this?’ Or sometimes it’s the opposite, like, ‘I'm awesome! This book will be great.’ And then you push yourself into writer’s block because you’re trying to be overconfident.
By centering myself, I shifted my focus to where it needed to be: the purpose of the book and the people who will benefit from it. And suddenly, I knew what I was working towards and what I needed to contribute. It’s moments like that when you realise you’re part of something bigger and ‘it’ can come through you, instead of you having to force it. It’s a feeling of flow.
Leadership Embodiment is simple and powerful. It doesn’t matter how much self-development or coaching experience you have. Everybody starts on their own level, and the practices help you deal more elegantly with whatever challenges you face. It’s a practice for leaders, for coaches and simply for anyone who wants to access their best self and contribute more, no matter what comes your way.