Global Leadership Café VIII: Embodied Leadership

Forty plus people gathered to deepen their understanding about what it means to be an embodied leader. After two rounds of World Café-style discussion, we shifted into more experimental mode, exploring physical ways of being more fully present as leaders. Heightening awareness of breathing and body posture, participants themselves embodied some of the leadership qualities they felt could serve them in becoming better leaders in their work and life.

We added a meta-learning loop at the end of harvest, inquiring about the process and structure of this leadership laboratory, as well as reaping personal takeaways from the activities.

Many people wanted to learn more about how to use their body to embody leadership….

Leadership qualities embodied by participants included:

Authenticity, compassion, clarity, courage, determination, focus, inspiration, intelligence, love, being non-judgmental, space-holding, trustworthiness, vision, vulnerability.

Takeaways, in the words of participants, included:

  • “To listen to your body. Remember [and] embody the quality you want to exhibit.”
  • “I chose clarity & holding space and realized I should stop making plans and just relax…”
  • “I noticed that I become too quiet among Japanese people, Oh no!”
  • “Holding space [for others].”
  • “Reflection about how body/posture/movement can support/reinforce your emotions/thoughts.”
  • “Small group work is really effective for learning. Good format. Great people.”
  • “Our body has a lot to teach us. I want to work on my breath.”
  • “Get out of my head and connect with my body more.”

Facilitators in order of appearance: Yuka Kojima, Skip Swanson, Dori Yanagi, Michael Shell, Tatsuya Yamada, Annette Karseras, David Nevin.

A Global Leadership Café at the Karenni Social Development Center

On February 21, a small team of GLC facilitators will travel to the Thai-Burma border to conduct a Global Leadership Café at the Karenni Social Development Center (SDC). The SDC is a small, community-based organization dedicated to protecting the environment and promoting the human rights of the Karenni people. The SDC’s aim is to build a new society based upon the rule of the law. To accomplish this, the SDC trains young Karenni refugees to become advocates in non-violent social change.

Photo courtesy of Alex T

The objective of the Feb. 21 Global Leadership Café is to help the SDC create a long-term vision, appreciate their inner resources, and clearly articulate how other communities around the world can empower the SDC’s transformative work. Participants will include the SDC leadership team, staff, faculty, students, alumni and volunteers. Other Karenni community leaders will join the conversation, providing diverse perspectives on the shared challenges and opportunities ahead.

The SDC embodies leadership and innovation. While the GLC team hopes to contribute to the SDC’s success, this is also a fantastic learning opportunity for our community. In the context of adversity and limited resources, the SDC leadership team has created a strong and growing movement towards a more sustainable future. We believe that there are many lessons to learn from this community about the kind of leadership we need to thrive in the next 100 years. Find out more about the Karenni Social Development Center at their website here.

This inspiring project was made possible by Refugees International Japan. Find out more about RIJ’s work to assist refugees at their website here.

To find out more about the SDC Global Leadership Café, contact David Nevin.

グローバル・リーダーシップ・カフェ VIII 「体現化されたリーダシップ」2月6日 ウエスレーセンター

日頃、身体の内側からリーダシップを発揮していますか?それとも外側からですか?自分の価値観や目的に基づいた行動をとっていますか?それとも 周囲と共有する価値観に基づいた行動を取っていますか?期待値や利益、失敗することへの恐れなどは、あなたの判断や選択にどの程度影響しているのでしょうか?






注意: リーダーシップカフェは英語で行われ、対話は英語のみとなります。

GLC VIII EMBODIED LEADERSHIP on Feb 6, 2015 at Wesley Center

What is Embodied Leadership? How aware are you of your body intelligence? Do you lead from the inside out, or from the outside in? When you take action, do you base your actions on your own values and purpose, or on values most shared with others? How much do expectations, rewards or fear of punishment influence the choices you make?

These are some of the questions that are likely to emerge in our “Embodied Leadership” conversation on February 6th. Come join the conversation and learn how to embody your unique leadership qualities in order to make a positive impact on those around you!

At this Global Leadership Cafe we will explore different understandings of Embodied Leadership and focus in on one definition that connects our body and behavior a leader. Shifts in our body’s physical stance and expression, can change the flow and balance of our natural brain chemistry.

Through participating in activities and discussion we will get clues about how to muster emotional resources we might lack as a leader — simply through changing our body posture or facial expression.

Physically embodying a more assertive or a more subdued tone in the way we choose to lead can also help us understand how our behavior and physical presence resonates with others as we seek their cooperation. What would you like from this Cafe and what can be unique contribution? Please join us, Feb 6, 2015!

CLICK here to tell us which questions you are most drawn to discuss on Feb 6. The question with the most votes will be included on the night.

Register for the Leadership Cafe here.

Notes from GLC VIII Kick-Off Meeting

Below is a brief summary of the outcome of the GLC VIII Embodied Leadership Kick-off meeting – you can find the full summary of the meeting here.

  • We discussed the what Embodied Leadership means to us:
    • Being present with emotion
    • Intense emotion
    • Experience
    • Three intelligences in the body, head, heart and gut
    • Speaking from the felt unknown
  • We discussed possible Jolts related to Embodied Leadership
    • Posting as a sculpture, what does a leader look like?
    • Flash dance
  • Question to further explore: What stops you from embodying yourself as a leader?
  • We discussed possible theme for GLC IX – Agency (discussion to be continued).

Next meeting is planned for January 8 at 18:30-20:30 at Tokyo Creators.

GLC VII Team Collaboration – A Summary

Taro art 1212Co-authored by Michael Shell and Annette Karseras

When have you experienced true Team Collaboration? How can you encourage true Team Collaboration in your organization? These were the questions that kicked off November 28, 2014 Global Leadership Cafe in Tokyo, Japan.

Instinctively, we all know something about collaboration. We are social animals after all. But why is it that some teams just jell, while others struggle? Individually we cannot solve the global scale issues of today. We need to enhance our ability to coordinate collectively – within and between organizations and, at the micro-level, as teams.

The Team Collaboration Café began by exploring teamwork as an interplay of leadership and followership. Forming first pairs and then small groups, the 40-strong participants played a mirroring game, taking turns to physically lead or follow the movements of their partners; exploring the dynamics of collaboration as the leader-follower roles moved fluidly between the players. We had fun and we learned a lot.

From bodywork, to café style discussion, small groups shared and mingled. Memories of trust and safety rediscovered on one discussion table, bled into experiences of alignment and synergy spoken on another, were refracted through lenses of shared accountability, harnessing diverse expertise, celebrating wins and scores of other perspectives.

Finally, participants took insights from these variously re-invoked pasts and distilled them into an action; one small step each person could take individually in their own organization – to move purposefully nearer to achieving true collaboration.

Some of the shared commitments include:

  • Scheduling regular meetings to share passions
  • Saying thank you every day
  • Practicing Deep Democracy – meaning listening and respecting every voice
  • Sharing self more and be more open
  • Putting myself in other people’s shoes
  • Focusing on the quality of my relationships
  • Starting conversations by asking questions, not by giving the answers

We’d love to hear from you! How can you enhance team collaboration at work?



Notes from GLC VII Prep Meeting #3

We’re on our way towards GLC VII Team Collaboration! Our third preparation meeting was held at the Honganji Temple, thanks to Ryoei-san (thank you!).

Key outcomes:

  • We converged on two questions for GLC VII:
    • When have you experienced great (co-creative) team collaboration?
    • How can you more purposefully encourage co-creation?
  • Want to focus on action, bigger emphasis on harvesting, suggested rough design:
    1. Quick Jolt
    2. 2 questions (see above)
    3. Harvesting
  • We all each aim to invite two relevant people to the event.

See the complete notes here.

Notes from GLC VII Prep Meeting #2

We met for our second GLC VII preparation meeting. It was a face-to-face meeting at the Wesley Center where we tried a new concept of setting the context for the meeting by quickly reminding ourselves why GLC exists – it connected us with our values and gave us focus.

Key outcomes:

  • Agreed on putting emphasis on co-creation rather than flow.
  • Many potential questions generated, but no conclusion on the core question, see Notes / 7) Cafe Questions below for details.
  • Many ideas for innovations at the event, see Notes / 9) Innovations below for details.
  • Reminded of finding ways to help non-English speakers to be included in the conversation.

See the complete notes here.

Thoughts on Staying Foolish, the conversation

What does Staying Foolish have to do with Global Leadership? Plenty, it turns out. A leader who is willing the play the fool intentionally is the one who courageously challenges the status quo and makes it safe for others to follow. He or she skillfully breaks rules created from the past in a time when the future was more predictable. The Foolish Leader invites us to examine our unexamined assumptions. Knowing which rules to break and how to break them seem to be the difference between being foolish and being a fool, often a fine line!

These are some of the insights gleamed from the October 3, 2014 GLC conversation on Staying Foolish. By entering the conversation open-minded and curious we were left enriched and with a new sense of what is possible. People shared that when you are willing to be foolish you engage those around you and help them to return to their natural state of resourcefulness and creativity –  the very same qualities global organizations strive to develop in their people today.

On a couple table-conversations comparisons were made between Foolishness and the court Jester. In ancient times, the court Jester was the only one who could safely challenge the King. He illicits laughter at our commonly held assumptions and in the process provides a pathway to wisdom.

Many talked about learning from children and the benefit of being more playful at work. David Nevin led us through a playful exercise where we learned the benefits of design thinking, unbeknownst to us at the time, and how our assumptions left unexamined limits our creativity and emergence of new solutions. We discussed how seriousness often narrows our focus, which is sometimes needed, but not helpful when innovation is called for. Absurdity was discussed as the extreme form of foolishness.

People questioned why a difference exists between work and play why it takes so much courage to bring play to work. When asked about the “how question;” how we can incorporate play into work some of these ideas emerged:

  • schedule a “playful week,” where people are encouraged to do things differently
  • foster people’s natural state by encouraging an environment of fun
  • create a “playground” at work, a space where it is safe to play
  • look for patterns to disrupt in yourself
  • have intentional “nomikai’s”
  • insert elements of surprise at work
  • be selective about the people you bring into your organization, test their ability to play!

One group made a “foolish” analogy between foolishness and a hot air balloon! The hot air balloon is powered by the creative energy that propels us to float up into the air to see wider and broader perspectives not possible from the ground. The higher we go, the wider our perspective and the more we learn. We then need to come back to earth and put into practice the new acquired knowledge. The obvious “negative” sides of foolishness were also discussed.Harvest wall

GLC VI had a nice mixture of first time GLCer’s and veterans as well as Japanese and non-Japanese. The topic stimulated perhaps our most paradoxical and whimsical conversations.

As we shift from an outdated directive command and control approach to leadership towards collaborative frameworks, it is clear that today’s leaders need the capacity to hold and manage multiple paradoxes. They create the container for which smart foolishness is allowed and nurtured. Global Leaders need to be highly self-aware to know when it makes sense to be foolish without being a fool!

Please share your current thinking on the topic of Staying Foolish here on our community blog and we would love to hear your ideas for GLC VII!

Please take 2 1/2 minutes to share what theme would you like to discuss in GLCVII – Topic Ideas

GLC on FB:


Join the Leadership Team!

Interested in practicing Foolishness in a diverse and supportive environment? If so, please join our leadership team, guided by these principles:

  • effortless effort
  • act from joy and
  • there’s nothing wrong
  • we are stronger when we think together

We support the development of leadership capacity by supporting their leadership commitments. All of us have benefited through our participation. The more we contribute the more we grow.

Common benefits include:

  • developing authentic relationships
  • listening to others
  • listening for what wants to emerge in a group
  • adapting to uncertainty, ambiguity, chaos and the unknown
  • allowing the emerging group process to unfold
  • comfort with discomfort
  • c0-creating the pathway as we move forward.

Join our team and work with us to catalyze connections!

Impact of GLC VI Staying Foolish

We’ve just completed our sixth Global Leadership Cafe – Staying Foolish.

How did you or your thinking change, if at all, by attending GLC VI Staying Foolish?

Please share the impact GLC VI had on you by commenting below!