What makes a good leader? Humans have probably been asking themselves for millennia. In our hi-tech, intricately linked and fast-moving world, the answer has got to be more complex.
Most of us can recall people who managed to inspire us to do something out of the ordinary, to break with the comfort of convention and push through to something new and challenging; and most of us can recall people who didn’t. There’s something that the former group has got that the latter hasn’t. The tough thing is identifying what that is.
It’s tough because each of the people who have led us into novelty and change differ from one another; they don’t share a homogenous character trait. However, according to Roffey Park researcher Tom Kenward, they do nonetheless share something in common that makes them different: they are embodied leaders.
That may sound like some new form of management speak, but it’s worth exploring: these people, Kenward argues, consistently demonstrate a strong alignment between what they do and what they say, cultivating a strong sense of possibility, conviction and focus in the process. This isn’t reducible to charisma: the alignment is a hallmark of embodied leaders who can voice their minds clearly and strongly. By knowing where they stand, they help others work out where they do.
They do that because they can line up their heads with their hearts and core values more of the time. As Kenward puts it, they can maintain that alignment for lengthy periods; they’re “closer to being all of a piece” than wannabe leaders who just fall flat. By drawing on these three sources of energy and novelty – head, heart and core – and working on lining them up, we begin to feel our awareness of the predicament we’re in clarifying, and our preparedness and energy to act rallying.
According to Kenward, the more we practise this alignment, the better and stronger our leadership grows.