Embodied Leadership

Embodied Leadership: The Somatic Approach to Developing Your Leadership by Pete Hamill

With a foreword by Richard Strozzi-Heckler, Ph.D., founder of Strozzi Institute.

Published by Kogan Page. For further info, to download a chapter, or to get further resources, see: www.embodiedleadership.net.

We don’t need leaders who know about leadership – we need leaders who embody the capacity to lead in the midst of ambiguity and complexity. The concept of embodied leadership is derived from somatic coaching, a unique approach that brings the body forward as an advocate in creating a place for change and transformation. It brings together language, action, feeling and meaning and is based on the idea that the mind and body are inextricably linked: to develop one, you must cultivate the other.

In our current culture our head is the important bit. The body is what brings it around from meeting to meeting, and if our body’s lucky, we’ll take it to the gym occasionally and look after it. That’s common sense in our culture, and when we think about leadership, the body may have something to do with it – body language for example – but the head’s the important bit; right?

What if, however, that’s not right? What if the body does play a very important role, and that this goes beyond just body language?

This book sets out to show how many of our current popular perceptions about leadership don’t necessarily help us, and what we now know from neuroscience, biology, philosophy and years of research, shows how working through and with the physical body we can develop our leadership potential further.

Just consider Emotional Intelligence: when you have an emotional reaction to something (e.g. that email that makes you angry) that reaction doesn’t appear as an idea in your head, but as a feeling in your gut. It’s an ‘embodied’ reaction.

Consider dealing with conflict: have you noticed how children and animals often know when people are upset before they do? They’re not noticing words, but they are able to observe bodies, and the subsequent emotional states.

Consider leadership: the concept has its roots in animal behaviour (leader of the pack etc), and animals all know who the leader is without corner offices, business cards, job titles or bespoke suits. Leadership has more fundamental, primal aspects to it, which we can’t just think our way to achieving.

Embodied learning is a level of learning where you can learn to do something differently, consistently and when under pressure. This is different to memorisation or knowing about a subject. In the domain of leadership it is this level of learning is required to be effective – how often do you really have time to consult all those models you’ve heard/read about to deal with a situation?

Embodied Leadership is about learning to lead at a deeper, more fundamental level, working through the body to deeper levels of self-awareness, developing the capacity to be the leader you want to be, and achieving what you are committed to achieving.

Embodied Leadership deconstructs our thinking about the body using key discoveries in neuroscience to demonstrate the uses and benefits of a somatic approach, particularity in the area of emotional intelligence. There are practical exercises throughout to develop embodied leadership skills and personal development.

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Praise for Embodied Leadership

‘Through this book Pete Hamill offers leaders something we really need – a practical and progressive take on leadership that is highly relevant to how we work today and the daily issues we face. By introducing his ideas and techniques of Embodied Leadership he brings together modern thinking from neuroscience as well as ancient philosophies that have stood the test of time and does so in a way that is accessible, provocative and importantly, motivating. Having read many a book on leadership, my experience is that this is a field awash with admittedly interesting theories and concepts but the practical application when in the thick of it is often overlooked. However, this book is all about understanding and improving how we operate within the messy world of work and offers practical solutions to thriving, and being the best version of ourselves we can.  It’s a must read. ‘

Karen Callaghan, People Director, innocent drinks

‘A thought provoking book that rattles through the physical and the metaphysical and provides a radical blueprint to reconnect us with our bodies and as a consequence enable us to become more effective in our everyday lives.  If you’ve struggled with business school leadership models and the endless leadership ‘how to’ books then this will provide a refreshing alternative.’ 

Professor Chris Bones, Professor of Creativity & Leadership Manchester Business School, Dean Emeritus of the Henley Business School & winner of the UK’s Management Book of the Year 2012

‘A thought provoking, practical, accessible guide on how to use your body to develop authority, presence and impact as a leader’  

John Leary-Joyce, CEO of the Academy of Executive Coaching

‘This book offers refreshingly practical ideas for everyone wanting to develop their leadership skills. It takes deliberate practice -we are what we practice in the author’s words-, but building on the principles of embodied leadership it opens our eyes to how much choice we actually have when we don’t let our past determine our behavior, and hence our potential at work’ 

Eeva Sipila, Chief Financial Officer, Cargotec Corporation

‘What makes this leadership book unique powerful and necessary is the voice of, practical, deeply educated and compassionate wisdom that Pete Hamill brings to it. He cuts through the fluff and nonsense bandied about in pop culture and grounds what he says in real science, the practical know-how of  experienced practitioners, and in the human body itself which is, in every case, the sole instrument of leadership.  Mr. Hamill evokes real trust in the reader as he maintains his clear-sighted optimism and warm humanity while never shirking from the real difficulties facing leaders today.  He lays out a powerful methodology for developing leaders that it is compelling, realistic and inspiring. Full of intriguing references and examples the book is a marvellous resource for anyone involved in leadership and its cultivation.’

James Flaherty, Founder, New Ventures West Integral Coaching

‘If it’s true that practice makes perfect, we might as well understand more about which particular practice actually works and why. Pete Hamill’s book guides the reader in this discovery, venturing in a field that constitutes a significant advancement in leadership studies, and in the process accomplishing a rare balance of engaging style and richness of references and argumentations, offering a journey that is populated by the likes of Descartes, Ekman and Chomsky, and through stimulating concepts such as the rational mind, somatic markers, embodiment and deliberate practice.’

Alessandro Paparelli, Regional Executive Director, Human Resources & Organization, Asia Pacific, Salvatore Ferragamo

‘I really enjoyed this book. Pete Hamill offers a very fresh and momentous perspective on leadership as an embodied practice, rather than an innate capability. His work is grounded on some great research and weaves in some of the latest thinking around leadership, neuroscience and somatics in a very practical and engaging way.’

Paulo Pisano, EVP and Global People Director, Pearson International

‘The challenges and demands on leaders and collective leadership are increasing at an exciting and yet frightening rate.  Yet the world of leadership development is failing to evolve at the same rate.  The gap is growing ever larger between what is required to support next generation leadership and what leadership development is currently providing.  

Pete Hamill’s book provides clear guidance on some of the areas that need to radically change in the field of leadership development, supported by both the latest research in neuroscience, EQ and mindfulness, as well as stories and examples of new practice.  These include: the move from cognitive learning to embodied learning; from over-focusing on the left-brain neo-cortex as the main vehicle for learning to using all four parts of the brain and the wider knowing that resides in the whole body; and  from learning through reflection on the past, to learning from experimenting with future challenges right now in real-time. 

My hope is that this book will stimulate every reader to go out and learn differently and to try-out some of the new practices of developing others that Pete provides.’

Peter Hawkins, Author and Professor of Leadership, Henley Business School, Emeritus Chairman at Bath Consultancy Group

‘This is a book of and about balance. East with West, philosophy with psychology, empiricism with practical reasoning. Pete Hamill explores a multitude of philosophical approaches to Leadership, that are grounded in well-being, and goes on to develop a practical supporting toolkit. This book will help you become a balanced, mindful, healthy and resilient Leader.

Keith Wilson, Global HR Director, Change & Talent Management, AstraZeneca

‘A thoroughly insightful and fresh perspective on leadership which makes a compelling case for a different approach.”

Melanie Richards, Partner, KPMG

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