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How to use embodied leadership to engage your employees


How do leaders maintain engagement of their key talent? How do you apply the 'ecology of talent' to business? Colin Reeve explores the idea of embodied leadership.

In today's fast-paced, impatient and often stressful world, leaders need to find a way of leading that liberates people to contribute their unique talents willingly – thereby giving us all the resources, of all the people, all of the time. This embodiment, in leadership terms, means bringing the best thinking and attitude, emotional state and congruent body and actions into everyday leadership activities – not fragmented parts, but a blended mix of maximum potential.

During R&A's 20 years as global leadership consultants we have recognised that the companies who achieve sustained success are those we describe as 'elegant organisations'. Not often a word used in business terms, this analogy is a powerful one. If you think about a dancer, athlete or gymnast, they are often described as focused, disciplined, hard-working and committed and have stripped away all the 'unnecessary' from their art. These attributes are essential in the art of leadership too. The leader's role is to create a lean, efficient, elegant organisation that taps into and maximises all of the potential and energy of its people. To compete and stay ahead in today’s business environment requires the same discipline and focus that keeps athletes at the top of their game.
"The leader's role is to create a lean, efficient, elegant organisation that taps into and maximises all of the potential and energy of its people."
So how do we deliver outstanding 'healthy high performance' that fully utilises and engages the resources readily available in every business?

The ecology of talent

In our work, we have frequently seen energy go untapped, underused and squandered as we over-manage and under-lead. We need people to turn up at work complete: mind, body and emotion, so they can get the best from themselves, for themselves, for the business they work in and the family they live with. Anything less is a waste. We need to think about the ecology of talent. With today's imperative, 'getting more from less', it is more important than ever that we don't throw away any of our natural resources.

The four energy levels

We recognise that everyone has four levels of energy available to them that, when awakened, can be blended into one incredible force. The energy you use at the gym is not the same energy that gets you to go to the gym. The energy you use at the gym is the energy of your muscles. The energy that gets you there is called motivation. The energy that sustains motivation is called passion. The energy that keeps passion alive is called inspiration, and this energy can last a lifetime.
'Can do' - the energy of the muscles, comes from the need to earn a living. 'Will do' - the energy of motivation, comes from values being fed. 'Want to' - the energy of passion, comes from having and living with a purpose. 'Compelled to' - the energy of inspiration, comes from being connected to a vision.
Overly controlling management engages only the energy of the muscles. This fragmenting of energy prevents individuals putting heart into their work. They become discontent and unfulfilled, saving their higher level energies for activities outside of work. Leadership allows access to the energy of motivation, passion and inspiration; leaders liberate themselves and others, to be the best they can be.

R&A’s embodiment model     

Managers can also reduce people effectiveness when they put too much emphasis on 'thinking' (mind). The questions – 'what do I want', 'when do I want it by' and 'what’s my plan' are useful, but rarely is any effort put on helping people access the appropriate 'feeling' (emotion) to underpin the plan. It is also imperative to know how to use my 'behaviour' (body), including how I use my posture, my breathing and my physical skills in order to get the best from myself and from others.
"Knowledge must make that exciting journey from mind to muscle (thinking to being) to make it truly effective."

The following model illustrates how these elements come together to create embodied leadership: the results - increased authenticity, influence, awareness, confidence and presence. This powerful blend inspires others to take personal responsibility and be empowered to lead their part of the business.

'In time' leadership

Knowledge itself will never be enough; understanding that water will quench your thirst does not quench your thirst. Understanding leadership does not make you a leader. Knowledge must make that exciting journey from mind to muscle (thinking to being) to make it truly effective.
Today's leader needs to be in-time with the people, the business and the market in order to engage and excite people to change. In this fast paced world, on-time is linear and therefore too slow: the bus comes, I get on it and the bus goes. In time is more like an orchestra: different people, different instruments, in time playing together in the moment.
It is our experience that people want to express themselves; they want to be successful and have their energy flow creatively in their lives. And just as a carpenter learns to work with the natural grain of the wood, the in-time leader also needs to learn to work with the grain, releasing and blending the four human energies and embodying potential and by doing so, touch two of the deepest of human ambitions –to contribute and to be complete, living a fulfilling rather than simply a full life.

Colin Reeve is the founder of R&A Consultancy & Training

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