Integral Approach: Somatics, Science & Systems
In the context of human growth and potential, an integral approach considers the interrelated parts as essential to the health of the whole. Integral means whole, complete or comprehensive. A somatic approach to individual work and a systems approach to group dynamics encourage more power, insight, synergy and wisdom to emerge. Whether working with an individual, a small group or a multi-layered team, the whole is more than the sum of the parts. At every level of leadership, there are opportunities to integrate for greater scope and mastery - both individually and collectively.

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Somatics opens entirely new possibilities for becoming the leaders we need to be - individually and together. Somatic awareness, openings and practices guide us to embody leadership with greater presence, humanity and effectiveness. We evolve to embody commitments, skills and our capacity for aliveness with greater congruence, power, trust and purpose. Somatic transformation results in a Self that can take new, skillful action under pressure and by choice, more consistently producing the intended impact.

When you think of your identity at work and what is valued, what comes to mind? Humans are remarkably self-interested, so all change comes down to a question: “What will the self move towards or away from?” A key leadership question is: ”What to focus on?” Where can I best focus my or our attention, time, resources and energy to produce better outcomes?

Somatics is a fundamentally different way of perceiving, interpreting and developing the Self. It cultivates the emotional regulation, social intelligence, and personal mastery that are core requirements for the leadership of today and tomorrow. Somatics cultivates leaders whose actions and behaviors align with their values and visions for life, embodying what they care about to create a new future.

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The word soma comes from the Greek, referring to the living body in its integrated wholeness. A somatic approach to self includes every aspect of you – mind, heart, body and spirit. From a larger cultural perspective, addressing the whole self - including the body - is a radical departure from conventional approaches to learning and development. In disciplines where the valued contribution is intellectual, emotional or spiritual, inclusion of the body can be confronting or puzzling.

From a somatic perspective, the body is more than a bio-mechanical organism for sustaining life. The soma as Self is the fundamental domain of perception, learning, communication, choice, action, coordination and transformation. Resilient, resonant leadership occurs in interaction with the ecosystem where you find yourself. The self and the body are indistinguishable. The soma as Self is what we work with in somatic coaching.

Significantly, the somatic approach to self-awareness and development is a systems approach. Each person is a complex system, living in complex, inter-related systems. Beginning with the Self, we focus on perceptions, interpretations, patterns, and choice for transforming ourselves and our situations. The purpose is to promote integration, health and skillful mastery.

With respect to generating and sustaining resonant leadership, mindful attention to both self and centered presence is an essential starting point. Considering that more than 90% of who we think we are and how we respond to the world occurs as non-conscious, conditioned responses, then the inner game of leadership becomes all the more relevant. Mindful attention to centered presence contributes to renewal by invoking brain patterns and hormones that change our mood, while returning our bodies to a healthier state. Somatics moves mindfulness into skillful, congruent and purposeful action.

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Embodied leadership is, at its core, about our capacity to move skillfully with integrated awareness, choice and masterful action. Cultivating this requires conscious attention to patterns and practice; we change the “shape” of who we are being and the impact we have.

Certified since 2004 by the Strozzi Institute as Master Somatic Coach™ and being one of only a handful of individuals certified in Limbic Coaching™, I help clients address leadership growth and personal mastery from a full-self, integrated orientation.

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Neuroscience continues to make great advances in understanding what promotes peak performance in nearly any kind of human endeavor. There is "hard" science behind much of what has long been considered "soft" competency. Our understanding of intelligences required for for high performance, transformational leadership and growth now include IQ, EQ, somatic intelligence and C-IQ or conversational intelligence®.

How does your capacity to be fully present, resourceful, and functioning in a healthy way factor into your definition and practice of leadership?

Curiosity and appreciation about brain function and optimal body/mind integration provide welcome guidance for focusing efforts for growth and change. Somatics, conversational intelligence® and mindfulness practice are rooted in deep wisdom about the human condition. Neuroscience broadens our understanding and reinforces how they are essential for cultivating leadership competencies and innovation.

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According to leading neuroscientists and organizational change experts, leaders of an organization wanting to be adaptive and resilient must wrestle with the question of how to promote “healthy minds” at work.

Recent discoveries in neuroscience, for example, validate and accentuate the importance of integrating daily mindfulness practices for high-performance leaders and teams. In addition to improving immune and cardiovascular functioning, it strengthens the integrative areas of the brain that are regulatory.

The conscious brain is limited, and can only solve basic problems. The unconscious brain on the other hand, has extraordinary processing capacity and is a powerful trouble-shooter. Consider a comparison between one cubic foot (conscious brain processing capacity) and the Milky Way (unconscious brain processing capacity). We often miss out on the signals the unconscious mind sends us because of what we value and focus on and the constant noise in our heads.

The way to cultivate mindfulness is through what can be called TIME IN, a looking or tuning inward consciously and intentionally. Of all the items on the Healthy Mind Platter, TIME IN tends to be the most neglected.

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We are culturally in a time of great transition. From many directions, you can hear the urgent call for life-affirming change. This is true about our understanding of what it takes to be a whole person and a great leader.

You and your leaders are under pressure to make decisions and provide results for complex situations and issues with varying levels of uncertainty. Complex issues are best approached with systemic methods that incorporate a broad diversity of perspective, experience, and dynamic knowledge, all required to maximize an organization’s resilience as it faces into uncertainty and the unknown.

Learning organizations are adaptive, resilient, innovative organizations. When you want deep, sustainable change, you grow your capacity to create together. Leveraging personal mastery and shared vision, you move beyond reactive problem solving. Second, you grow your capacity to collaborate across boundaries. Mental models, team learning and dialogue become embodied capacities. Third, you grow your capacity to see and relate with systems, combining systems thinking with purposeful, coordinated action. For all this, you evolve your capacity to engage in conversations to discover and co-create and you need.

A systems approach to growth and change considers the interdependent, interacting parts that make up the whole system. Change in a part creates change elsewhere in the system. Taking a systems approach to growth and development, you benefit from greater engagement, more sustainable and self-sustaining change, and a stronger, more resonant leadership culture.
The ability to establish, grow, extend, and restore trust is THE key professional and personal competency of our time.
Stephen M.R. Covey
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Cultivation of the self, which is the foundation for exemplary leadership, occurs through engaging the body in recurrent practices. This runs contrary to our common sense, which tells us that by reading a book or going to a weekend seminar we will suddenly have the capacity to perform differently. In the Leadership Dojo the emphasis is on practices that allow us to embody new skills and to act in new ways. … The body in this sense is our domain of action, mood, learning and coordination with others. … Training the body… allows us to develop the more ontological leadership skills of meaning, purpose, relationship, team building and culture.
Being Human at Work: edited by Richard Strozzi-Heckler, PhD
Our habits of perception limit and shape our potential to respond. To seek our true capacity, we must unwind our historical patterns. To do this, we must begin to perceive with our whole self. It is more than just using your eyes or your intellect. The “seeing” to which we are referring includes your muscles as well as your thoughts and feelings. We call this whole body perception.
Retooling on the Run, by Heller & Surrenda
To enter the dance of partnering with others – and with life itself – requires the embodiment of an evolutionary perspective. It involves awakening to both one’s uniqueness and deep connection to the whole, as well as demonstrating innocence (in the sense of not knowing), humility, presence, empathy, and courage – in the service of evolution.
Alain Gauthier on Co-Evolutionary Leadership
Leaders are often advised to focus on the rational mind and on the mechanics of business – planning, organizing, and controlling resources (including people) – and to leave the soft stuff alone. … Instead, people need to cultivate mindfulness and seek resonance in themselves and with others. This is what it takes to be an effective leader and to sustain effectiveness in the face of constant pressure. Those of us who cultivate mindfulness have more cognitive flexibility, creativity, and problem-solving skills. In other words, leaders who pay attention to the whole self – mind, body, heart, and spirit – can literally be quicker, happier, and more effective than those who focus too narrowly on short-term success.
Resilient Leadership, by Boyatzis & McKee
The mind is an embodied and relational process that regulates the flow of energy and information. Learning to live with the brain in mind is a powerful way to strengthen your mind and improve your professional life. With more ability to regulate the flow of energy and information in your work, you can become more effective and achieve a greater sense of satisfaction.
Mindsight, by Daniel J. Siegel, MD
Lead. Collaborate. Grow. ... to Thrive!