Cranfield's Dr Diana Theodores discusses the 3 C's for leadership fitness - Connect to your body, connect to your creativity and connect to your inner revolutionary.
1. Connect to Your Body
In all that you do, in all the environments you operate in your ‘first environment’ is your body. Your body is the source of balance in all the flux and complexity around you. Therefore, connecting to yourself, the immediate environment of you, before stepping into action is key to your wellbeing and your performance. Here’s a mantra I want you to make your best friend: Stop. Breathe. Take a moment. Connect. Practice this powerful tool for self-mastery and marvel at its effectiveness. Best of all, it is utterly portable and accessible at all times!
You may play many different roles in your work, but you have only one body, the gateway to all your experience. Your mindset, your power, your beliefs, your decision making, your risk-taking, your acts of courage, your vision, your presence, your capacity for powerful communication – this extraordinary palette of expression of you – is located in your body. In the words of somatic coach, Jen Cohen, you don’t have a body; you are a body.
Ever notice what’s happening in your body when you feel under pressure, defensive or resistant? Perhaps your jaw clenches, your shoulders tense or your arms cross tightly. Perhaps you slump or lean to one side when you feel defeated, bored or resigned. Whatever the challenge or pressure you’re feeling, your body takes on the shape of an attitude. It is speaking to you! One small moment of physical awareness and response can shift you into a much more effective state and give you more choices for responding versus reacting.
Starting right now Stop. Breathe. Take a moment. Connect. Go towards your agendas with intention Or continue to rush past, rush over or rush headlong through your days as one meeting leaks into another, draining your energy and back-footing your effectiveness.
You become what you practise. Your energy is your ‘response-ability.’
Connect to your creativity
In the everyday performance of your job and responsibilities you can easily forget parts of yourself. Most often it's the creative part of yourself that can go dormant: the piano not touched for a decade, favourite poems not read again since school, the voice that once loved to sing now damped down into workplace jargon or hiding behind power point. The sketchbook replaced by spread sheets.
But when you do connect to your creativity – in whatever form that takes – you capture a state of joy, of power, and flow. When you connect to your creativity you open your body, mind, heart, and senses. You’re spontaneous and agile. You tap into your imagination and your intuition. You are physically and energetically released, liberated, unlocked, focussed. You are warmed up to yourself.
What better time than in these days of lockdown to connect with your creativity again, to stoke that fire. Your creativity is a profoundly powerful resource for connecting to your best self and getting into the high performance zone. Make creativity dates with yourself: take out the sketchpad, lift the lid on the piano, read the poems you love again, write your own, get out the air guitar, let it rip, make a vision board of things that inspire you, dive into your life and create a repository of stories of turning points, inspirational experiences, epic adventures or everyday moments of surprising beauty. Start today! Make your creativity a sacred habit.
Connect to your inner revolutionary
In the wake of events celebrating the centenary of the women’s vote in the UK, I enjoyed an opportunity to choreograph a play about the suffrage leaders, Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett. The legacy of those very different styled revolutionaries, one a militant activist and the other a strategic diplomat, continues to impact the lives of women today.
Revolutionaries are the stuff of big visions and irrepressible spirits. They don’t retreat from the phrase ‘This can’t be done.’ They change mindsets and cultural norms. They instigate ‘the shock of the new’. They change the status quo.
There are revolutionaries all around us – from environmentalists to political activists, artists to scientists, tech innovators to spiritual leaders. We all have our personal procession of revolutionaries who inspire awe, gratitude and humility in us. No matter how iconic their status or epic their visibility, their paths began with an experience, which led to a sense of purpose, to a first step, to action and its consequences.
Within you is your own revolutionary, poised for acts of courage, risk-taking, standing up and being counted, speaking up, initiating, moving and shaking. Whatever these acts may be for you they help create a more meaningful story for your life and your organisation. You don’t have to be epic or iconic!
Activating your inner revolutionary might begin by questioning the status quo, the ‘this is the way we do things around here’ mind set as your default setting. Questions like “Why am I perpetuating models of practice that are not as effective as they could be?” (Those terrible slide decks in the power point presentations) or “What can I dare to do a bit differently that would create more engagement and value for myself and others?” (Our meeting environments are not very conducive for creative thinking) or “How can I role model more visibility?” (Stop hiding behind ‘we’ and claim the ‘I’)
Questioning and reflection can help break through the habit of what Nancy Kline calls the epidemic of obedience. One small step of personal activism can liberate you from the atrophy of conformity: What is something you want to dare to do differently that speaks to you and speaks of you? Most critically, what’s the consequence of not doing this?
Learn more about our Impact and Influence programme, designed to lift you out of your day-to-day default style of personal ‘performance’ and instead develop your skills in operating in a zone of high impact and influence.
About the Author
Dr Diana Theodores is an international performance coach, Programme Director for the Impact and Influence programme and Director of Theatre 4 Business. She is author of bestselling Performing as YOU: how to have authentic impact in every role you play. Full profile.