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A forgotten fundamental skill in leadership

Every morning, my 17-year-old daughter Julie and I walk to school together. We share our experiences from the day before, whether pleasant or unpleasant, and recognise the preciousness of these intense moments. Julie is in her last year of school; she will study in Barcelona next year to fulfil her dream of becoming a professional dancer. The conversation we had during our walk last Tuesday took me by surprise.

The previous day, a teacher had asked her about the richest moment of her six years at school. The answer came naturally to her: "The moment I realised I was beautiful enough and smart enough. The moment I started to accept myself and decided to live my dream of becoming a dancer.” But instead of sharing her response, she remained silent. "You know, Dad, something prevented me from sharing my answer with the class. I was really scared of being seen as smug and arrogant. Dad, it's hard to say but I was ashamed.”

After a long silence, she declared: "I want to live in a world where there is no shame in feeling good about yourself and worthy of being loved.”

Beyond the simple aspiration to find her place in society, Julie had touched on one of the main reasons for the lack of leadership in many organisations: Leaders have forgotten how to cultivate self-esteem. They run after their need for recognition, and they lose their ability to see what really matters for them and the world.

The result is a lack of courage, a loss of meaning, more polluted land and water, and a growing economic gap between the rich and the poor.

Let’s PAUSE here:

Do you also sometimes feel the fear of losing respect and approval at work?

Then take a moment to think about these two questions:

  • How does feeling more at peace with yourself influence your leadership? What becomes possible?

  • How does experiencing a strong bond with the people around you influence your leadership? What becomes possible?

As we have the power to influence others, it is our responsibility to increase our capacity to feel inner peace and connection. Part of this comes from giving less attention to the little voice inside us that makes us doubt ourselves and keeps us from concentrating on what’s truly important. This new state — one in which we are present and centred — allows us to switch our focus from an egocentric view of the world to a larger vision that extends beyond our personal needs. This work is called "cultivating the Self". It is crucial for cultivating the ethical vision, sense of responsibility, and social and environmental commitment needed in the post-pandemic context.

Exemplarity in leadership is not a given. It’s a lifelong journey of personal exploration. If you’re ready to start the journey, check out our Embodied Leadership Coaching or Leadership Embodiment training programs.

With gratitude,


Manu Henrard is a Executive Somatic Coach and an Executive Recruiter based in Brussels. He is also an associate from the Strozzi Institute for embodied leadership. Manu's professional commitment is to help leaders increase meaningful productivity and achieve inner peace. More about his coaching program here.


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