Person lying down with book on face. Is this how we imagine rest?

What makes a brilliant leader?

Maybe things like intelligence, strategic ability or vision come to mind.

Most of us rarely consider physical or somatic factors.

(Imagine a role description that required candidates to “maintain a regular breathing pattern whilst making high-stakes decisions”, or “demonstrate a full range of shoulder mobility during challenging conversations”.)

And yet, our experience of our bodies plays a significant part in our day-to-day experience of work.

Our bodies play a bigger part in our leadership than we think

How do migraines, twisted ankles, frozen shoulder or back pain impact your ability to think, connect and communicate?

And vice versa – how has work affected your body?

Does an impending meeting send your stomach churning; has a stressful deadline triggered aches, strain and tension?

Research into the gut-brain connection exemplifies this two-way impact between our brains and bodies:

“A troubled intestine can send signals to the brain, just as a troubled brain can send signals to the gut. Therefore, a person’s stomach or intestinal distress can be the cause or the product of anxiety, stress, or depression.” – Harvard Medical School

We tend to vastly underestimate the extent to which our somatic experience shapes our work and leadership. Which gives us, in turn, untapped potential to explore.

What if paying attention to your body was the most effective way to expand your capacity, reduce your stress, and revitalise your performance?

How to hear what your body is saying

A good place to start is simply by observing sensations as they arise – beginning to appreciate your physical experience as another source of data.

Our bodies receive input.

When you open an email from a senior manager; notice someone on a Teams meeting has their attention elsewhere; see that a family member has received your message but not yet responded – what happens to your breathing? Your shoulders? Your jaw?

And our bodies generate output, too.

Observe the different reaction you get when you begin a 1:1 meeting with a deep, slow breath.

Does your team communicate differently when you’re consciously relaxed, limber and moving as you open the meeting?

Can you perceive a difference in the quality of your work when you’ve included more walking in your day?

These subtle observations can have a not-so-subtle impact on the way you and those around you work.

Whole-body leadership in a global crisis

As we navigate the “new normal” of hybrid work, remote teams and an environmental context that’s ever more uncertain, this shift of attention becomes more critical than ever.

How do we measure the impact of a smoke-filled New York on our organisations, as employees show up to lead Teams meetings or focus on work in respiratory discomfort?

Of uncontrolled wildfires, floods or heatwaves on a global workforce?

Or of the micro-responses felt in the bodies of every other member of the workforce reading about these stresses before they’ve had their breakfast?

Beginning to address and acknowledge these factors builds the resilience that distinguishes the strongest, most adaptable teams apart.

“Leadership” and “performance” are holistic concepts

At Global Warriors, our work comes from a foundational acknowledgment of the interconnected systems we’re all a part of. From teams, to organisations, to global networks and ecosystems – our own participation influences others far beyond our comprehension.

That’s why our work prioritises growing awareness, in all forms – whether of our bodies, our emotions, our communication, or our trust. As Daniel Goleman reminds us,

“A focused leader is not the person concentrating on the three most important priorities of the year, or the most brilliant systems thinker, or the one most in tune with the corporate culture. Focused leaders can command the full range of their own attention: They are in touch with their inner feelings, they can control their impulses, they are aware of how others see them, they understand what others need from them, they can weed out distractions and also allow their minds to roam widely, free of preconceptions.”

Cultivating a greater connection to our bodies and the messages they send for us – as intuition, discomfort, stress, energy, joy, or anything else – is an ongoing challenge for all forward- looking businesses.

We’d love to talk to you about how your people could explore whole-body leadership, and the difference it could make to their communication and performance.

Contact us to find out more about our work.

Share This