I was talking with a client this morning about feedback she got from her CEO. He told her, you need more executive presence. “Try to get rid of your nervous laugh,” he suggested unhelpfully.
The challenge with feedback like this about executive presence is that it doesn’t cut to the core of who we really are. You can’t fake executive presence. Having executive presence means being so solid in who you are that it just emanates from you, inside out. Others sense your deep confidence that everything will work out. And they can feel that you believe in them without having to say a word. You are so calm that you just own the room. This is authentic power.
So how do you get to this place of being leadership embodied?
Through the body.
We live in a culture that’s all about the mind. The problem is that we leave the body behind. And if we leave the body behind, we’re essentially talking heads glued onto 2 legs. What power do we actually have if we’re leaving our foundation behind? What integrity would a house have if it didn’t have its foundation?
Now there are lots of ways to gain access to the body, but the only systematic way that I know of is through yoga.
First, get rid of your notions of what yoga is. It’s not about being sweaty in 100 degree rooms while wearing expensive spandex. It’s not just an exercise class at the gym. Yoga when practiced in its full spirit is about uniting. In sanskrit, yoga means to “yoke”. And what you’re really yoking in yoga are the two great halves of ourselves: our minds and our hearts. Our left brain (the analytical one), and the right brain (the creative one).
Leadership that comes from the head will never be truly inspiring. You can masterfully articulate all the reasons why your team should buy into a new strategy. But if it doesn’t come from the heart, and capture other peoples’ hearts — you will only get so far. Any change process is like trying to lead an elephant. If an elephant keeper (your mind) isn’t able to win over the elephant, the elephant isn’t going to move without a struggle. It’s the same with leadership.
Yoga through its practices of physical postures and meditation is the systematic science of dropping from the head into the heart. When we can speak from that place that is connected to who we are at our core, that’s when we can move all the elephants in the room.