You have to relax to lead

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This is Sibelius month in Seattle, and the Seattle symphony is performing all his major pieces. At last week’s performance of Symphony No. 2, I was mesmerized by the conductor. Thomas Dausgaard and the orchestra appeared to breathe as a single organism. I have never seen any large group act in such complete harmony.

Dausgaard_casual

It made me realize, yet again, that much of the time I am walking around in a state of mild muscular tension. Modern life, after all, is anxiety-provoking. There are too many things to do, too many deadlines to meet, too many obligations to fit into the minutes of any given day. And anxiety, which is fear of the future, translates into tight muscles.

When it’s time for me to lead a workshop or a board meeting, I have to face myself and let that anxiety go. The reason is that leadership requires emotional connection with those we lead. When I’m frightened or nervous, I will not convey confidence and trust. The attendees in turn will hold back their faith in me, remaining emotionally distant.

In our abundant society, there are dozens of ways people can do this. The Alexander technique has been very useful to me in shedding excess muscular tension. Meditation is becoming so commonplace that children in schools are learning how to do it. Readers may use running, swimming, bicycling, yoga, Feldenkrais and more. (And of course, some people solve this problem by over-imbibing adult beverages, which creates other problems than the one we’re trying to solve—not recommended.)

The bottom line is that you have to relax in order to lead. Whatever your particular nagging issues or inner demons, however conscientious you were taught to be in your family of origin, leadership requires faith in yourself, confidence in those you lead, trust in the future, and the ability to relax and have a good time in the act of leading.