I recently returned from a week in Rarotonga where I had the chance to slow down and enjoy being. I layed in the hammock under the palm tree, gazing out on the warm blue ocean, and enjoyed feeling the breeze gently caress my skin.
I also took the opportunity to practice mindfulness or 'the art of presence' away from my busy life back in Auckland. I feel the benefits still as I return to work, still busy, yet lighter and more aware, less bothered by the normal daily problems that arise to deal with each day. I especially noticed the difference in how I facilitated a session for a leadership team at a local school. I was more relaxed, more naturally humourous, and more able to listen with ease to the conversation.
So what exactly is 'leadership presence', how can it benefit you, and how can you develop it?
Presence is the quality of being awake and aware or 'present' in each moment, and Leadership Presence is that quality of poise and perspective which results in you being a more centred leader at work and at home.
Leadership presence or 'mindfulness' as it is often referred has been associated with a boost in overall sense of wellbeing by increasing focus, memory, analytical ability, and the ability to negotiate and resolve conflicts. With practice, mindfulness could potentially help you to better serve your customers, to work collaboratively, and to make better decisions.
Studies also suggest other benefits of mindfulness including reduced blood pressure, cholesterol, and muscle tension as well as improved attention to detail, alertness, a more stable and steady mind, and an enhanced ability to cope with stress, relate to other people, and handle conflict in a calm and humane manner. The medical journals are full of articles attesting to the benefits of 'presence of mind' or 'mindfulness'.
Mindfulness can be most directly practiced through meditation.
When you think of 'meditation', what comes to mind?
I'm not talking about any religious practice. I am talking about the simple act of sitting still and allowing yourself to open to your authentic self behind your everyday personality...that is, your human 'being-ness'.
Meditation is a simple way to reconnect with your 'voice of leadership' or inner authority...the simplicity of who you really are, beyond all the daily stresses and dramas and goals and ambitions of life. It is a way to create an open invitation each day for authentic inspiration to 'drop in' and visit you.
There are many styles of meditation,and one of the simplest and most practical styles I have found helpful is merely closing your eyes and observing the gentle rise and fall of your breath, known to some as Insight Meditation or Vipassana.
Focus attention on your heart area and observe the subtle motion of expansion and release of your breath. It can be helpful to inwardly say to yourself. ‘in’ and ‘out’ as you experience the inflow and outflow of your breath.
If you find yourself being distracted by some other pain or irritation or sensation, merely notice it and name it. For instance, if you notice your jaw feels tight, you say inwardly, ‘clenching, holding, tightening”, simply acknowledging each experience as it arises.
You might feel your back aching, and you inwardly name the feeling, ‘aching, aching, burning, burning, pulling, pulling, tightening, tightening, etc. What you will notice is that the dominant sensation will continually change and shift. The focus of your attention can rest on the dominant sensation, and when that fades away or shifts, gently return your attention to the breath, ‘in and out’. You might then, for instance, become aware of someone rustling a paper, so you inwardly say to yourself, ‘rustling, rustling’.
It's important to notice while meditating that the one doing all this observing, namely YOU, does not change and shift. YOU are always the same...it's your thoughts and sensations that constantly shift and change, not YOU.
As you continue this process, even for as little as five or ten minutes, a sense of peace and clarity begins to come into your awareness, even in the midst of personal dramas and outside stresses happening.
It is from this space that your most inspired 'voice of leadership' will make itself known to you. You can keep a notebook by your side to capture any of the inspirations that come to you from this centered place.
Throughout the day, practice noticing yourself, that YOU behind all of the surface activity, the observer, the ONE that never changes. The one that is solid and steady and sure. This is your authentic self. This is the place of 'leadership presence'. This is the self that will guide you to more on target activities and relationships. This is the self which will lead to your own personal version of success, in your own authentic way.
Sally Mabelle, ‘The Voice of Leadership’ Specialist. www.sallymabelle.com - Inspiring clear, confident, and connected communication for personal and cultural transformation