Leading in a virtual environment: staying grounded
RADA Business tutor and Leadership Programme Director Claire Dale
Like most of us, Claire has spent the last few weeks adapting to working in a virtual world.
With much of our daily communication now being conducted through screens, there are certainly challenges to face, but as Claire discussed in her previous blog, this is where the RADA Business embodied approach to leadership is particularly helpful. By continuing to focus on the body, breath and voice, there are many ways to maintain your leadership presence in a virtual world.
In her previous blog, Claire suggested thinking of your body as representing four modes of leadership: your feet, your centre, your heart and your head. Today, Claire shares further insight into how focusing on your feet can help you stay grounded, even in a fast-changing world.
Claire's insight on authoritative leadership
"When a teenager messes up, they might get grounded, right? I remember that being the most serious of consequences for my son when he was growing up, and thankfully one that we used only once.
In the current Covid-19 crisis, those of us not in front line roles are effectively grounded through lockdown, though it is through no fault of our own.
One of the benefits of lockdown is that it is an enforced grounding for many of us. Travelling to work, maintaining social contact and taking part in back-to-back meetings can drain our energy, particularly when the introvert in us requires some down time.
This enforced grounding is enabling our adrenal glands to fully recover, fuelling and revitalising our creative energy and cognitive power. With time to re-ground ourselves, we are more likely to have valuable insights about our futures. Potentially we may have more energy to create new opportunities to lead on new ways of thinking in the post-Covid world ahead of us.
Grounding yourself helps to achieve authoritative leadership
This enforced grounding is giving us access to a powerful metaphorical and literal advantage in terms of our leadership.
When we are in contact with the ground, millions of nerve endings in the soles of our feet provide feedback that says we are physically stable. Research from a field of study called Embodied Cognition shows that physical, emotional and mental stimuli are intrinsically linked in a constant feedback loop of something called 'reciprocal causation.' Therefore, physical stability creates mental and emotional stability, too.
Through this enforced grounding then, if we use it well, we can boost our authoritative leadership mode.
Authoritative leadership is an important cornerstone of our embodied leadership modelling at RADA Business. It is a powerful and empowering mode where we are at ease with our natural authentic authority, not authoritarian or controlling.
Let go and own your space
Our ability to be grounded means to take support from the surface that is beneath us, feeling it rise to meet us, to give us a sturdy platform on which to stand our ground and own our space. We are not trying to grip or control too much, but rather use our sense of grounding to be able to let go and release more: unlocking ankle, knee and hip joints; releasing shoulder and neck tension and releasing our breath.
Leading authoritatively in a virtual world also shares some similarities with what the military call distributed leadership.
In a field situation, a leader may oversee a large territory, yet not be able to see or influence every decision being made in the field. Distributed leadership involves entrusting their team with decision making powers. In a virtual world, that trust is paramount. If as leaders we are uptight rather than grounded and released, our teams may grip or grab for control, and this will be counterproductive. We want to ensure effective, distributed teamwork; creativity and collaboration; and everyone working together towards the same goal.
Flex your leadership style
Our ability to flex between different leadership modes needs to be swift, complete and fully embodied for us to embody our leadership and have our intended impact.The authoritative leadership mode is a foundation that helps to build confidence, on every Zoom, or Skype call you make. As you communicate through the camera and microphone, technology has a way of sucking nuance and meaning out of important moments. We need to use 10% more vocal and physical energy to communicate confidence and grounding to others in a virtual world."
Finally, try this exercise
So, what can you do to ground yourself? Take some time to go through these steps – right now, as you read this:
- Sit tall, easy and expansive, with your spine long and your head lightly suspended. Imagine you are being gently pulled up by an imaginary string from the base of your skull.
- Widen your shoulders, without pushing or pulling them forwards or back.
- Place both of your feet firmly on the ground, hip-width apart.
- Imagine each foot is in its own bespoke footprint, carved out in the floor.
- Scrunch and release your toes or rub or pat your feet one-by-one, to wake up those millions of nerve endings.
- Imagine your shoulders and elbows are slightly weighted.
- Say 'good morning’ out loud to an imaginary (or real!) person and notice how the pitch of your voice may have dropped.
- Notice how you can think more clearly and use that to decide or two right now, especially about how you might empower others.
Get in touch
We have been working hard to adapt to the challenges of the pandemic in order to continue to support all our clients currently.
Find out how Claire and our expert team of tutors can help you to refine your leadership whilst you're performing on a virtual stage by contacting +44 (0)20 7908 4830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.