Agile/Leadership Embodiment


In addition to methods such as Scrum and Kanban, the Agile manifesto with its associated values, principles and mindset, Agile also has an extra dimension that is indispensable: Embodiment. Something that we, as a modern Western society, have completely lost but is essential for the sustainable living and feeling of Agile values and principles.

Agile is aimed at transforming the feeling of chaos during change into something that is more controllable and feels more comfortable. In general, agile teams are more agile, productive, creative and learn faster than teams that are not based on agile principles, practices and mindsets.

And yet, Agile often does not bring about the sustainable change that has been hoped for. Undesirable behaviour reappears, especially in times of crisis, after which a culture of insecurity, power, fear and cowardice emerges again. Agile in its current form is unable to break this circle. How is that possible?

Agile transformations focus mainly on the top of the Agile Pyramid and are often completed as a project after one to two years. However, the current agile pyramid is literally only the tip of the iceberg.

Even after the “agile transformation”, many large organizations are still primarily focused on “main” issues such as short-term results, efficiency and ratios that show a (seeming) control. Things like a purpose and values are written down, but nobody really feels them as such. Because they are often written out of the “head” to achieve the rational goals and not from the heart. Due to the lack of this connection between head and heart, there is often insufficient courage and intuition. This allows things to run their course and people are surprised by, for example, what they actually felt, but how on earth do you get that in a KPI? And if predictive data is available, the courage to take a different path is often lacking.

Agile can only be permanently anchored by also training and coaching the Agile “Heart & Guts”. An organization (read: management, employees, teams) will have to get into its flow in order to get rid of its head and thus be able to let go of the feeling of control. Only then is it possible to work together in a truly creative and connecting way.

For a short period of time this flow can be done during workshops, trainings and meetings, for example by Serious Play sessions with Lego, among others.

In a sustainable way, however, this will have to be done in a different way, for example by applying leadership embodiment exercises as they are applied by top athletes prior to or during an important competition. You can use this to bring your body and mind into a flow in a focused and natural way in which head, heart and belly work in harmony with each other.

Just like top-class sports, this requires a lot of training to achieve this flow state when it really matters. Anouk Brack, a well-known LE trainer, coach and author, mentions the following somatic intelligence tips in her publications:

  1. Always look for complex situations, both interpersonal and in work and training.
  2. Deal consciously with the problems and challenges in life through reflection, dialogue and therapy.
  3. Be aware of your inner state of being and make sure you grow in being able to make a more subtle distinction between different states of consciousness.
  4. Have a strong intention to continue to develop yourself.
  5. Be open and willing to create a new framework for understanding complex situations more fully.
  6. Cultivate an open and friendly personality.
  7. Immerse yourself in peak experiences and wider states of consciousness, for example by doing a meditation retreat or Leadership Embodiment training.
  8. Building a cognitive framework of the potential of psychological development to better understand where you and others are on that ‘map’ of development.
  9. Reading about integral theory and Spiral Dynamics can help, for example in Reinventing organizations of Laloux and in Evolutionary leadership of Peter Merry.
  10. Deal a lot with people who are also involved in self-development, also engage in dialogue.
  11. Practice daily inner awareness enhancing techniques such as centering, mindfulness and meditation.
  12. Regularly engage in self-reflection, for example by using Action Inquiry, a method of transformative learning.
  13. Build an integral practice: work on keeping you healthy and further developing yourself on a physical, emotional, mental and spiritual level.
  14. Work on integrating psychological projections and shadow elements and healing psychological and emotional wounds from the past.
  15. Have intercultural experiences
  16. Cultivate a personality who is curious about new experiences, who dares to experiment and wants to explore unconventional things.