A New Paradigm for Inspiring Change in Leadership

HomeBlogA New Paradigm for Inspiring Change in Leadership

Just look at the latest post or article on leadership, and you’ll soon realize there are as many theories on what constitutes a “good” leader as there are people with their own perspectives on this important topic. There are, however, two dominant paradigms that have been looked at and discussed over the past decade: traditional leadership and servant leadership.

Traditional leadership emphasizes authority, hierarchy and top-down decision-making, while servant leadership focuses on empathy, service and empowerment of others. Both have become operating paradigms for a reason and have been instrumental in shaping organizations and teams for decades. However, a new form of leadership is emerging, one that goes beyond mere rhetoric and demands a deeper level of personal commitment from leaders – this is what I call Embodiment Leadership.

When looking at traditional leadership, we see a model that is deeply rooted in command-and-control structures, where leaders hold power and authority over their subordinates. Decisions flow from the top down, and adherence to rules and regulations is paramount. While many, throughout history, have come to believe this approach is effective, it is definitely losing its popularity in most circles, as it often stifles creativity and innovation and can lead to disengagement among team members. It tends to create a hierarchical culture that discourages open communication and stifles dissenting voices, and as such, this style of leadership today is often labeled “toxic,” and organizations where it is prevalent can have very high employee attrition rates and low levels of productivity.

Servant leadership, on the other hand, flips the script by prioritizing the needs of others above the leader’s own command and interests. Advocates of servant leadership believe that by serving others, leaders can inspire trust, foster collaboration, and ultimately achieve better results. This approach emphasizes empathy, active listening, and a focus on developing the potential of every team member. While noble in its intentions, servant leadership can sometimes be seen as overly idealistic and impractical in certain organizational settings, especially when not structured properly. If the right training and accountability are not in place, it can lead to poor leadership, in that strong ownership of choice and action, as well as empowered teams that take full responsibility for their efforts and the impact they have on the organization, can be, at times, lacking. The leaders, themselves, can also feel they need to hold most of the burden on their own shoulders, instead of looking at their organization as a system that is only as strong as each member is responsible, accountable and engaged.

The concept of Embodiment Leadership, on the other hand, represents a perspective shift in how we think about leadership. At its core, Embodiment Leadership asks leaders to embody or fully represent the values, behaviors and vision they wish to see in their organizations. It’s not enough for leaders to simply talk the talk; they must also walk the walk. They must BE the vision and version of what they want to produce.

This form of leadership emphasizes actively portraying authenticity, integrity and alignment through a leader’s words and behavior. Leaders who practice embodiment leadership take leading by example to the Nth degree, demonstrating the values and behaviors they expect from their team members. This approach models and fosters vulnerability and transparency and builds trust through consistency and reliability. It inspires commitment and creates a culture of accountability where everyone is invested in the organization’s success because the leader shows what it looks like to be accountable to themselves above all else. Embodiment Leadership demands a leader know and focus on how integrous they are being, at all times, and the impact of their thoughts, feelings, decisions and actions on the outcomes they produce within their lives – in all ways, not just where it comes to their leadership within the organization.

Why Embodiment Leadership is what we need most today:

Embodiment Leadership surpasses traditional and servant leadership in several key ways:

1. BEING the Genuine Article: Embodied leaders are who they are, from the standpoint of who they are truly meant to be in ALL their interactions with others. They work to be solid mirrors for their people and don’t hide behind a façade of authority or pretend to have all the answers. Instead, they are willing to show they’re “human” first, and be honest with who they are and where they are in their position and perspective, while allowing others to do the same.

2. BEING Accountable: Leaders who truly know themselves – the good, bad and in between – are more capable of extreme ownership of their own roles within an organization. They hold themselves accountable for their actions and decisions and aren’t afraid to be seen, not only when they are winning, but when they are making mistakes and growing, as well. They also expect the same from their people. They don’t blame others when things go wrong; instead, they take responsibility and ask others to, as well, so that the situation can be rectified, and everyone can learn, grow and move forward, as a team. Embodied leaders are in the trenches with their people when it comes to all wins and losses.

3. BEING Empowered: Embodied leaders only choose the empowered roles of Leader, Coach and Challenger. If they ever accidentally step into a roll of Victim, Perpetrator or Rescuer, they acknowledge it and use it as a teachable moment for both themselves and others around them. By embracing and using the tools, resources and support, themselves, that they provide their people, they demonstrate what it truly looks like and IS to be successful and empowered. Rather than micromanaging, these leaders trust their team members and put the right supports in place to ensure they can do their jobs effectively, intentionally and from their true Zone of Brilliance

4. BEING Great Communicators: Leaders who choose to be embodied in their leadership understand the importance of solid, clear and consistent communication that allows them to be both seen and understood by their people. Being able to communicate a compelling vision of the future, in order for everyone to see what the leader sees and understand their own part in the mission and purpose of the organization, is essential. When embodied leaders exercise good communication, they model what this looks like and what and how communication standards are to be met within the organizational culture.

5. BEING Adaptable: Embodied leaders are adaptable and flexible, willing to admit their blind spots and weak points, in order to truly embrace change and navigate uncertainty. When a leader operates from ego, they become rigid and inflexible, finding ways to ensure they are always right, look good and are safe and comfortable in their position. Embodied leaders are willing to embrace all aspects of themselves and focus on the team, purpose and mission. They are able to let go of outdated ways of thinking or doing things to seek out new opportunities for clarity, growth and innovation.

Embodiment Leadership focuses on the individual leader being uber intentional about developing their own self-awareness, self-engagement, self-ownership and self-mastery. It represents a powerful new approach to leadership that is more about inviting others to a better way through modeling what it looks like to BE better. When leaders truly embody the values, behaviors and vision they wish to see in their organizations, it fosters trust, inspires commitment, and drives meaningful change and culture. As we navigate an increasingly complex and interconnected world, Embodiment Leadership offers a roadmap for building thriving organizations that are capable of meeting the challenges the human race will continue to face as we expand and evolve in our knowledge and capacity.