Steve, a CEO client, recently relayed a story that captures an important idea for leaders; the need to let go of certain beliefs, habits and approaches in order to create something different. He told me he and his wife were recently cleaning out their basement storage room. There were piles of things in the center of the room surrounded by already-full bookshelves. There was stuff as far as they could see.

He had been practicing the skill of centering for a short minute or two each morning. This resulted in him becoming aware of developing an ability to quiet his active mind. You see like most leaders, he was bombarded every day by so much external stimuli. It’s difficult to not “react.” Reacting was something he was comfortable with; we all are.
Steve was less familiar with the ability to experience the present moment; this allowed him to be “responsive” rather than “reactive.” After a few sessions together, he became aware of how little he had experienced the present moment for much of his recent life. He inquired as to whether the familiar feeling of tightness in his body might be related to this. I responded that indeed, tightness and constriction are often a sign that we have been “reacting” a good deal; this shows up in the body as “holding on” and “holding in.”

As he looked around at the pile of mess in the basement, Steve recalled that centering helped him get into the present moment. When he was fully present, he discovered things weren’t always what they seemed before. He saw new approaches. He observed from a different perspective. The tightness in his body started to dissolve.

Steve chose to try centering in the basement clutter situation. Something remarkable happened. He observed that rather than becoming “frantic or revved up about the lack of space,” he tried a different approach. He centered himself, and created the experience of being an observer. From this perspective he decided that it would be best to clear a section of shelves first, before proceeding with any other de-cluttering. He saw that he could create “space” for those things they wanted to keep only after discarding that which they no longer needed.

How does “centering” apply to leadership?

It’s when we let go of the busy-ness, the mental models, and the habitual ways of doing things that we can clear space for the new. We can expand and open ourselves to possibilities. Most of the time what emerges leaves us in far better shape than that which we have let go of.

I have found that a good way to facilitate this process is through direct experience in the body; try out CABOR:

1. C - Check in on what you are noticing in the body; tightness, constriction or pain
2. A - Attention should be placed on the area that needs it most
3. B - Breathe deeply through the belly, while holding your attention on those areas that need it
4. O - Observe as constriction gives way to flow
5. R - Repeat this process

Many clients have shared with me the value of such a process for themselves. This opens the gateway to new capacities and the ability to expand into areas that were previously challenging.

Be willing to make room as a leader and see what fills in.

Author's Bio: 

Susan Freeman is an executive coach who is best known for her unique approach to leadership transformation–combining Western strategic discipline with Eastern integrative wisdom techniques. Her clients get to the root of what is holding them back, allowing access to their Natural Leader. They evolve their leadership in an integrated, balanced and sustainable way. When they do, they experience passion, clarity and exceptional results.

She is the author of, “Step Up Now: 21 Powerful Principles for People Who Influence Others,” as well as a public speaker on the inner dimensions of leadership. Her passion is working with motivated, high-achieving leaders and influencers.

Susan received her M.B.A. in Marketing from Columbia University and her B.A. in Psychology from Wellesley College. Susan is an accredited coach with the International Coach Federation, as well as with Newfield Network where she received her coaching training. She is also a certified business facilitator from the MSP Institute. Susan brings to her coaching more than 25 years of corporate, entrepreneurial and non-profit business management and leadership experience.

She volunteers to mentor young women leaders locally and globally. In Africa, she works closely with The Akilah Institute to help empower young women with the skills, knowledge and confidence to become leaders. Her book connects her to the school, where it is used in curriculum and where she donates all profits from its sales. In Tampa she has mentored young women through the Emerge Tampa program of the Greater Tampa Chamber and Frameworks Tampa Bay.

Susan is a native of Kansas City and resides in Tampa, FL. In Tampa she is an active member of The Athena Society and a Leadership Tampa Alumna. She has founded or served on several educational boards at the secondary and university levels.

Susan is happily married and has three grown sons. Her hobbies include ballroom dancing, travel and yoga. Rarely a day goes by when she doesn’t eat a piece of dark chocolate.