Leadership Presence

developing whole leaders & teams | embodied leadership skills


‘In both everyday life and in situations of leadership, complicated no longer describes the environment or the goal. Complex defines the day. What you’ve always counted on before – yourself, your skills, your proven methods – no longer works sufficiently. You need something new, you realize. But what?’

— Doug Silsbee

At all levels of organizations, increasingly greater demand is placed upon us to manage ever greater complexity. Demands on attention, focus, processing, energy, health, relational & mental capacities and more. All too often, as Doug highlights above, the old methods prove to be no longer ‘fit for purpose’ in such an evolved, rapid-fire environment. The negative downstream effects on creativity, communication, innovation, productivity, well-being and ultimately bottom-line are inevitably apparent throughout the organizational ecosystem.

Clearly, an evolution is also required of us in order to optimally meet this upgraded environment—as leaders, as teams and as individuals. This leaves us facing two fundamental issues: 1. An upgraded skillset is required. 2. Once clarified, it must be developed as a new way of being.

What are these upgraded skills?


In my experience, most of us attempt change as either a top down or an outer to inner process. If we mandate change from above (ie. executive decision), or perhaps we just gain a few more skills, or maybe if we make the outside (physically or behaviorally) look like we want it to, and we then hopefully presume this will become that. While doing so may give a temporary impression of shift, real transformation — be it personal, team or organizational — will never truly be effected at program level in the system. This is akin to simply telling oneself to be a different way (Just be more efficient!) and optimistically expecting that alone to have a lasting impact. The well-worn grooves of habit, the ingrained ruts of our conditioned neuro-biology, will still be deeply committed to the old way of being, and inevitably that programming wins out over the new resolution no matter how ardent. Developmental psychologist Robert Kegan from the Harvard Graduate School of Education describes this built in effect as an ‘immunity to change’. System program ultimately overrides top-down decision. Clearly we need a strategy which works on a systemic level. But what?


Otto Scharmer of MIT’s Sloane School of Management tells us,


"Leadership in its essence is the capacity to shift the inner place from which we operate. Once they understand how, leaders can build the capacity of their systems to operate differently..."


True change. Lasting change. Has to be effected from inner to out. It must become embodied in the system. To do so we begin by addressing the inner environment — at the level of individual, team and organization — as a way to effect the upgrade needed. That change must begin with the key individuals, with leaders, in order for the system to begin to reorganize around the new way of being.

What are the upgraded skills required?

In my experience change is typically attempted as either top down or outer to inner process. If it’s mandated from above (executive decision) or if we just gain a few more skills then we believe this will become that. While doing so can give a temporary impression of a shift, any real alteration in behavior — be it individual, team or organizational—is typically not truly effected at program level in the system. This is like telling oneself to be a different way and expecting that to even happen let alone last. The well-worn grooves of habit, the ingrained ruts of our conditioned neurology, are still deeply committed to the old way of being, and inevitably that wins out over any new commitment. Organizational development psychologist Robert Kegan from the Harvard Graduate School of Education describes this as an ‘immunity to change’. System program wins out over top-down decision.

Otto Scharmer of MIT’s Sloane School of Management and author of the seminal leadership proposition Theory U tells us,

‘Leadership in its essence is the capacity to shift the inner place from which we operate. Once they understand how, leaders can build the capacity of their systems to operate differently …’

True change. Lasting change. Has to be effected from inner to out. It must become embodied in the system. To do so we begin by addressing the inner environment — at the level of individual, team and organization — as a way to effect the upgrade needed. That change must begin with the key individuals, with leaders, in order for the system to begin to reorganize around the new way of being.

The results of embodied leadership are: team commitment that transcends the work itself and the organization; individuals bringing their whole self fully online every day; a world where all feel free to uncover every rock, think from a world of possibility, test and learn to grow every day....this is where the hard work to drive transformational change lies....at the intersection of mind and heart.

— Anna W. (VP of Media Services)

My approach integrates research-driven change methodologies drawn from cutting-edge work in organizational and human potential development and some of the latest directions in cognitive science. An awesome, ground-breaking company requires awesome, upgraded leaders and this means drawing upon and integrating the most current developments out there. My process has unsurprisingly emerged via my role as creator and head of the leading-edge, internationally-regarded, professional coach training programs at the Human Potential Institute. Though coaching is not all of it!

Alongside of that, I integrate several simple yet empirically-verified and highly-effective skills which address the key issues arising from todays high-pressure organizational and life environments. In order to create resilient whole leaders who can function and respond optimally in the face of these conditions we need such skills.

We all know how stress, dysregulated focus and attention, poor communication, lack of energy regulation and so on all play havoc both at work and home. For leaders to function at the top of their game these areas simply must be addressed.


Any system under sustained attack without a suitably resourced response mechanism is bound to operate sub-optimally—whether it's an individual or an organization. Any successful intervention must therefore operate systemically which is why we have to address the whole whole person.


In order to manifest wholely competent leaders—those who are capable of leading with mind, heart & body—we need to work on all those levels . One key tool for addressing several of the challenges and bringing our full capacities online is that of mindfulness. Drawn from ancient contemplative practices this has rapidly morphed into a central component of employee development programs across the globe, with Silicon Valley stalwarts such as Apple and Google right through to industry leviathans such as General Mills running inhouse mindfulness programs as part of their internal offer. Aetna Insurance Chairman and CEO Mark Bertolini is quoted saying of even the bottom-line benefits that,


‘… the most stressed-out employees’ health care costs are $2,000 higher than average employees and ‘mindfulness’ benefits yield an 11-to-1 return on investment.’


Research on the benefits of mindfulness has shown:


Improved cognitive function & flexibility

Greater ability for self-awareness & self-management

Improved communication

Greater productivity

Substantial improvements in Creativity

Greater resilience & emotional intelligence (eq)

Improved employer/employee & client relationships

Higher levels of job satisfaction & engagement

Substantial improvements in health

Lower absenteeism & turnover


Though mindfulness and attention training are key components, they’re far from the only skills needed for optimal functioning.


My approach weaves coaching and simple yet scientifically-based, practical skills together to produce more engaged, resourceful, intuitive, intelligent, resilient, compassionate, creative and responsive leaders, teams and members of society.


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How Does It Happen?


The best way to begin is to set up a call. I generally work one-on-one with key individuals and occasionally I run short programs with small teams.

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