From Sustainability to Embodied Leadership

To really manifest in the new economy and to create a world that is sustainable and inclusive for all, it requires a deep and true relationship with our closest ecosystem, which is our body. It’s the vehicle that allows us to create and materialize in this world. And it’s the house of our soul.

I have dedicated the last two decades to working on valuable sustainable projects and worked with inspiring pioneers in the new economy. Each pioneer had a deep felt sense that something was not right, that change is on its way. They had a clear vision of the world they want to live in. Many pioneers, and also other leaders, strive to align head, heart and body. They realise this is key to truly lead.

And yet, it is not an easy task. I often see that mind wins over matter. I saw pioneers having cognitive debates and both wanting to be right. Pioneers getting a burn-out due to ignorance of signals from their body. I saw many solutions being created from the mind. It became a turning point for me.

I released more and more how we unlearned to listen and tap into our embodied wisdom. Rather than feeling into the sensations that come with situations, we started living in our heads. And started using the body as the vehicle to takes us from one meeting to the other. To do the typing needed to get all those beautiful thoughts in project plans. Listening to our embodied wisdom seems to be too time-consuming and confronting in a world that relies on targets.

An embodied leader:

In practical sense embodied leadership can be experienced in three ways.

1. Embodied leadership for vitality

Embodied leaders incorporate practices throughout their daily lives to stay vital and healthy. They allow the body to fully breathe. And create space for the body to move and release excessive tension that builds up during the day.

STOP! Stop reading for a moment…. watch your breath.
Are you breathing at all? Are you breathing shallow and fast? Are you sitting up right or in a way that your respiratory system gets hardly any space to fully in- and exhale? Often we hold our breath when working on a computer. We don’t give the body the oxygen it needs, it hampers our intelligence and creativity.

And, due to our busy and active lives our bodies are constantly at a higher activation level than would be optimal and healthy. We sacrifice our vitality in a very slow pace, we hardly notice.

2. Embodied leadership in challenging situations

Embodied leaders stay grounded, centred and present in challenging situations and respond from a more conscious space.

Mostly our body reacts before we mentally know what is going on. That physical or emotional reaction to a situation is felt in our guts, not in our mind. When we ignore this, this drives our response at an unconscious level. The receiver notices a mismatch between the mental response and what s/he senses.

Let’s make it practical to react from a more centered place. Image you are in a phone call with an angry customer (or another challenging situation). Sit up right, let your shoulders hang by stretching you spine and neck a little, and prolong your exhales so that they are longer than your inhales. Be curious what happens and how this effects your response. And after the phonecall….. have you ever physically shaken your body after a tough phone call with an angry customer? Or another intense situation? Your body would love you to release the tension build up during these situations.

3. Embodied leadership as a source of wisdom

 An embodied leader has (re)learned to listen and tap into this embodied wisdom.

Our body is constantly speaking to us in an uncensored, direct and non-judgemental way. However, the world we live in with constant impulses from the outside, does not make it easy to notice what it is saying to us, let alone to decipher it.

Better understanding how our physical sensations, emotions and thoughts work together in daily situations gives us more consciousness in our acts and decisions. For example when we take smaller or bigger decisions, each perspective (feeling, emotion or thought) gives a different reflection on the decision at hand. It allows us to take more informed decisions.


Embodiment LAB’s approach to embodied leadership is based on somatic and breath practices. Body and breath closely work together and mutually effect each other. More awareness on both creates leaders that develop a healthy relation with their embodied wisdom at each of the three levels described above.

Here you find more easy practices that you can do on a daily basis to release tension from your body, to relax or to activate.


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