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  • Writer's pictureNuno Salema

Authentic Leadership and the quality of Embodied Presence

Updated: Dec 15, 2019

Second Principle of the Authentic Leadership Model - EMBODIED PRESENCE

Being present, fully present to oneself is like coming home. It feels like the smoothing of the ocean waters after a violent storm. However, when we dig deeper we may recognize that being present to oneself is one of the biggest paradoxes of human consciousness. Let’s investigate why.

As babies, we soon start to develop a sense of self as we grow a stronger identification with our body-mind organism. This sense of self, based on memory, sensory perception, feelings and thought processes, acts like a frontier separating our inner world with the external reality which, in turn, reinforces our inner sense of individuality and separateness from the outer world.

Descartes famous quote, I think therefore I am, synthesizes this paradigm which fosters the entire western scientific knowledge and belief system. We like to think we are in full control of our minds, of our actions and even of our bodies.

Nonetheless, when we actually tune in with ourselves, we may acknowledge two experiences that contradict this assumption:

First, we spend most of our time focused on the outside, entertained with all the stimulus the world has to offer plus the relational, social and professional solicitations that we constantly face. What we sacrifice is a deeper sense of self-awareness. Of course, except in extreme cases, we never lose completely our sense of self. We are certain of who we are, what we are thinking and doing but can we actually say that we are present to what is going on in and around us?

Most of the time, we cannot.

Our mind functions like a little monkey in a tree jumping from branch to branch. It jumps to the past, recalling pleasant or unpleasant situations in order to predict and control future events or jumps to the future fantasizing about something rewarding or, instead, anxiously anticipating what is still to come.

Secondly, how challenging it actually is for us to stay in the moment. Besides the fact that we seldom invite ourselves to experience the present moment, when we actually try to do so, it is extremely difficult to stay there - here - for more than just a few seconds.

So, we may conclude from experience that

(1) the quality of Presence is constantly shifting and

(2) an enhanced state of Presence is very volatile.

This is the paradox, although we have a constant sense of being, we rarely invite ourselves to actually connect with… ourselves.

But why is Embodied Presence so vital for us?

To be present to one self is to bring into awareness how we are feeling at any given moment. To acknowledge our inner world is the first and most fundamental step when relating with someone because it will play a role on how we will send out our message.

As relational beings, many if not most of our conflicts find their root in (mis)communication. Part of this can be explained by a lack of awareness on how we are communicating. By disconnecting with our inner world, we often relate with others from an aggressive, judgmental or emotionally detached place. It is not what we are saying but how we express it- with our bodies, facial expression, voice tone - that is received by others as disconnected or even harmful.

As therapists, we know the importance of first attuning with ourselves before relating to our clients but this is valid for every kind of relationship. When talking to our loved ones, addressing our work peers or doing a public presentation, we should acknowledge how we are feeling in that moment, notice the tension or the relaxation in our bodies, where is our energy moving and where it is not, how are we breathing, how do we feel and how do we perceive the receiver(s) of our message.

Only by tapping into this, can we consciously shift it and attune to a more centered and grounded state of being. The way we will communicate will be adjusted to our intention which in turn, will have a positive impact in the people we interact with.

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