Want to Lead More Successfully?
Five Strategies for Upgrading to Centauric Leadership
Timothy H. Warneka
“Whatever happens to the body also happens to the mind.
The sanity of the body is the sanity of the mind;
the violation of the body is the violation of the mind.”
—Thich Nhat Hanh
Lead Your Organization Out of Flatland …
You want to lead successfully, but are frustrated from looking for leadership strategies that are more than simply flatland approaches disguised in fine new words. You want to avoid the fate of leaders who, at the top of their game, self-destructed because they fell into the flatland trap of refusing to grow. Worst of all, you know flatland perspectives and outdated leadership strategies are hurting your organization’s bottom line.
What’s a leader to do?
…and Upgrade to Centauric Leadership …
Flatland thinking, of course, cannot solve flatland problems. But there is an integral solution for transforming yourself while leading your organization out of flatland: upgrading to Centauric Leadership. Ken Wilber uses the Centaur—the mythic half human/half horse creature—to represent the integration of body and mind. Just as today’s more complex computing demands require frequent upgrades in your computer systems, so too does the fierce competition of our complex global economy call for you to upgrade to Centauric Leadership.
An integral, powerful approach to leadership, Centauric Leadership combines the much-needed twin qualities of ethical principles and effective practice. Centauric Leadership occurs when leaders move from rational leadership into Second Tier or Post-Rational levels of leadership, allowing them to lead more effortlessly and efficiently. (For more: on Second Tier, see Cowan & Beck, Spiral Dynamics; on post-rational leadership, download the related essay from Warneka & Warneka, The Way of Leading People at http://www.wayofleadingpeople.com/PDF/excerpts/TimEssay.pdf)
…by Starting with Your Body!
How do you upgrade yourself to Centaur Leadership? Fortunately, your starting point is easy: it’s staring right back at you in the mirror. Gazing at your reflection, you’ll see an enormously powerful leadership tool, one that is available every moment and costs you absolutely nothing to use. That powerful tool is your body. All you have to do is learn to use it differently. In a nutshell, upgrading yourself to Centauric Leadership means discovering how to embody leadership in deeper, more powerful ways.
Interestingly, research consistently shows that for every message communicated by leaders, the most valuable information is always expressed non-verbally. Far more than merely an intellectual understanding of “body language,” Centauric Leaders who embody their self-awareness are naturally more successful.
In my book Leading People the Black Belt Way, I share the secrets of Embodied Leadership Technology (E.L.T.), a Centauric strategy for transforming leaders’ ability to act more effectively at the correct moment, which in turn creates success throughout their organization. Drawn from Integral Theory, Spiral Dynamics, Emotional Intelligence, and the revolutionary non-violent martial art of Aikido (which I’ve practiced 18 years), E.L.T. creates success by showing leaders how to deeply live out the essential truth that your mind, body, spirit, and relationships are an integrated whole.
In my work as a change agent with leaders, I’ve seen dramatic results when leaders upgrade to Centauric Leadership using Embodied Leadership Technology. Here are five effective E.L.T. strategies designed to help you unleash the power of your inner Centaur:
- 1. Pay Attention to Your Body.
- Simply put, great leadership begins with the body. Unfortunately, most modern leadership strategies ignore this important fact. These flatland leadership strategies instead erroneously focus entirely on mental concepts, as if people were simply heads floating in space. You’ll be far more successful as a leader when you remember the fact that everything that happens in your organization is an embodiedexperience.
- 2. Be Mindful.
- Successful leaders take a hint from modern-day scientists and ancient meditation teachers alike: become mindful as you lead others. Deeply rooted in the martial arts tradition, mindfulness is a strategy designed to increase your success. Practice embodying mindfulness by paying attention to what happens to you physically when you lead others. How does your breathing change? What parts of your body get tight? Loose? What happens to your toes when sitting through your third meeting of the day? Use this subtle data mindfully, and you’ll find yourself making more effective leadership decisions.
- 3. Notice Your Breathing.
- Proper breathing done mindfully is the royal road to upgrading yourself to Centauric Leadership. When we encounter problems and conflict, leaders are hard-wired to breathe shallowly, decreasing our oxygen intake—exactly the opposite of what we need! Training yourself to breathe deeply when facing problems increases oxygen levels in your body, which in turn helps you lead more successfully. Pay attention to your breathing at your next strategy session or simply when walking around the office. With practice, noticing your breathing will take you a giant step closer to Centauric Leadership.
- 4. Observe Your Stance.
- My 18 years of training in the non-violent martial art of Aikido has provided me with some striking insights about leadership. In leadership as in the martial arts, I’ve discovered that your stance is critical to your success. Recalling that we are embodied beings, I mean stance to be understood both metaphorically and literally. I teach leaders to consider their stance literally in order to increase their awareness of the physical dimensions of leading others. I coach leaders into Centauric Leadership by improving their stance so that it becomes: (1) Relaxed & Open; (2) Grounded; and (3) Centered. One of the goals of Centauric Leadership is maintaining a relaxed calmness in the midst of increasingly conflictual situations—a perfect fit for leaders, don’t you think?
- 5. Get Coached.
- Most importantly, you’ll upgrade to Centauric Leadership even faster when you remember that it is first and foremost a relational process. Consequently, Centauric Leadership skills must be learned in relationship. There is no other way. The simple truth is that none of us can upgrade to Centauric levels without the assistance of other leaders. To step closer to Centauric Leadership, seek out a skilled coach or mentor who can show you how to harness your Centauric power. Your investment will pay off as you sail to new heights as a leader!
The Bottom Line
Sadly, many leaders today have fallen prey to flatland perspectives that ignore the body as the doorway to Centauric leadership. The plain truth is that you can upgrade to Centauric Leadership only by improving your embodied awareness. When you focus on your embodied existence in an integral manner—by attending to your breathing as you meet with your direct reports or noticing the tension in your stomach the next time conflicts arise in your organization—you will have made significant strides toward upgrading to Centauric leadership. By investing in moving into Centauric body/mind integration, you will be leading your organization—and our world—out of flatland.
For, in the end, the responsibility for creating a more successful world rests with leaders who are willing to have the courage to boldly step into Centauric Leadership.
The Kosmos demands no less.
Timothy H. Warneka is the CEO of The Black Belt Consulting Group (BBCG), an organization that shows individuals and organizations how to lead into tomorrow. Through Keynote speaking, leadership coaching, training, and consulting, BBCG helps leaders achieve Centauric Leadership through Embodied Leadership Technology, an Integral Leadership strategy that builds Emotional Intelligence through the wisdom of the body. The author of several internationally-acclaimed Integral Leadership books including Leading People the Black Belt Way: Conquering the Five Core Problems Facing Leaders Today; and The Way of Leading People: Unlocking Your Integral Leadership Skills with the Tao Te Ching;and Black Belt Leader, Peaceful Leader: An Introduction to Catholic Servant Leadership; and Healing Katrina: Volunteering in Post-Hurricane Mississippi, Mr. Warneka holds black belt ranking in the Japanese martial art of Aikido, the principles of which he incorporates in all of his work.
Tim’s books are available through Amazon.com and wherever quality books are sold. For Integral Leadership books, posters and other educational material, visit Asogomi Publishing International (http://www.asogomi.com).
The Breath – Curtis Watkins
In Aikido, it is said that relaxation is power. While not an Aikido practitioner, I have experienced this myself. When I’m in tense situations, if I relax, I notice I have more choices available to me. I have a sense of spaciousness, and a release from urgency. This spaciousness allows for more opportunities to act, which is one way to define power.
If I have a client who is unaware that her breath is high in her chest, her shoulders are lifted, and her voice rises in pitch when she is in difficult conversations, she will probably not know that she has other choices available to her in those moments. Once she is aware of her bodily responses to stress, she can begin to choose how she wants to behave. Awareness allows for choice.
As I work with my client to support her in accessing her breath with more awareness, she begins to learn to relax and from that place of relaxation she has a much greater capacity to act. This is a key leadership skill set. Now, I need to design a simple practice that will support her in embodying this ability to be relaxed under pressure. In this case, the practice might be taking three long, slow deep breaths morning, afternoon, evening and any other times when she becomes aware of feeling tense. In this way she will train her body to respond differently to stressful situations.
If you are new to working with the breath, start with yourself. Notice what happens to you as you move through your day. What leads you tighten up? Where does your breath go when you are challenged? Then begin to design a practice for yourself and notice what changes occur for you. Be patient, open and curious in this process and I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what happens. Once you have experienced for yourself the power of the breath, you will then be ready to offer it to your clients.
Curtis Watkins has been a coach for over 20 years in private practice. He is certified as a Master Coach with the ICF, is a senior program coach with the Newfield Network and is certified by the Stozzi Institute as a Master Somatic Coach. Curtis is also is Director of North American Programs for Integral Leadership & Coaching. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.