The 9 Lives Of A Leader

Today’s post is about the inner work of a leader, about you being the change you want to see in your team or organization in the era of adaptability.

It is about using the wisdom of the Alexander Technique, Tao, professional athletes, and cats, so you can land on your feet and enjoy the 9 lives you will need to stay in business today.


Are you laughing enough? Being the change you want to see in your team

One of the threads going throughout all of the different stages of my life has been wanting to gain an awareness of how my body works, and how to use it efficiently and productively. For that reason, chiropractors, physiotherapists, orthomanual therapists, Rolfers, Tai Chi masters and all kinds of body workers around the world have been some of my best teachers throughout the years. In fact, I could speak about different world cities in terms of the body workers I have met.

The other day I paid a visit to Fernando Rosa, a physiotherapist, athlete and board member of the Skyrunning Federation (ISF). He asked me about my smile, and I said it’s not easy to smile when you are in pain.

And then, boom! He said it, just like that: you just need to laugh more! The man I was hoping would fix my cervical pain so I could laugh and smile again, was actually telling me to do the exact opposite, to laugh so my neck would get better!

It reminded me of a time when I practiced Healing Tao with a woman called Ka Wah Choy in Amsterdam, in a studio overlooking one of the many canals of the city. All of a sudden, she would start laughing, gradually making it louder and bolder, and inviting all of us to join her. It was contagious, and its effect on the room, measurable. In just a few minutes the energy of the space would have shifted and we would move on to the rest of the practice still in the same physical room but from an entirely different inner place.

I have been putting Ka Wah’s and Fernando’s advice to good use. I have made it my mission to laugh boldly and loudly as part of a daily meditation. Lately, while leading a virtual team I also prepared for it by intentionally coming from a place of joy. I observed what laughter was doing, and today, 12 weeks later, a new global business is being born.

Laughing works. It creates a connection, brings down geographical and personal barriers, and propels people into getting things done.

As a leader, ask yourself: from which inner place am I addressing my team and how is it impacting the atmosphere in the workplace? I invite you to literally do what I did next time you have a meeting with your team. And if you do, drop me a note, I would love to see what 5 minutes of laughter meditation and intentional joy did for you and your people.


Leadership through the eyes of Tessa Marwick, Paul Westerman, and cats

Tessa Marwick, Alexander Technique – Awareness
Using just a chair in front of a large window overlooking another of Amsterdam’s many canals, Tessa Marwick taught me how to sit and stand using my body efficiently. I had a tendency to close my eyes to focus on the movement of the body. The work would only be complete when I could sit and stand efficiently while simultaneously tracking what was happening around me. I had the job of being aware of myself, of others, and of the environment, all at the same time.

Open your eyes and become aware of what is around you! Develop an interest in what is happening outside while simultaneously moving with flow! Tessa would say.

What do you have to become aware of as a leader? Being a leader today is no easy feat. Especially if you are in charge of a dynamic, global organization. You will find yourself in need of three key traits: self-awareness, other-awareness, and systems-awareness.

Self-awareness will mean having an understanding of how your emotions and behavior impact others. Being self-aware will help you create a safe workplace for others. Other-awareness will mean having an understanding of how others’ emotions and behavior impact you. Systems-awareness will help you keep track of and leverage the power of the interaction between team, customer, users and desired business outcomes.

Paul Westerman, Tai Chi & Alexander Technique – Whatever happens, whatever you do, do so with a soft flexible neck.
I met Paul at a time when I was still a pianist and working on an incredibly difficult piano piece by composer Willem Jeths. I would tense my neck, which would make the piece even more difficult to play. My job, Paul said, was getting out of my own way, so the music could play itself.

As a leader, could you perhaps be in your own way, preventing your team from ‘playing’ itself?

Could it be your job today to get out of your own way, so the team can organize itself?

Paul finished that session by showing me a photo of a cat fall and saying: whatever you do, do so with a soft neck. Whatever happens, be present with a soft flexible neck.

So, what about those cats? How can you as a leader provide your organization with a soft neck?


Falling like a cat in the era of market instability

In search of Organizational Agility? Combining Lean, Systems Thinking and Design Thinking could provide you with the 9 lives a leader needs to stay in business today.

Cats have a large body surface in proportion to their weight, helping them reduce pressure to their bodies when hitting the ground. What is weighing you down, and increasing pressure to your organization when experiencing setbacks today? Are you hitting the ground with excess weight? Have you considered becoming Lean(er)?

Cats spread their legs when falling, making their surface area even larger, and slowing their fall by increasing the air’s support on their bodies. What is detrimental about falling is how rapidly a body accelerates on its way down. A cat’s long legs allow cats to slow down, which reduces the seriousness of the impact. The more you are a systems thinker, the more variables you are aware of, effectively decelerating your way into the ground. What is supporting you? And, how long are your legs? How far do your design experiments reach? Did you know you can break down a project into core assumptions, tie them into hypotheses and design experiments so you can test the riskiest ones?

Cats are equipped with an aerial righting reflex, spinning themselves around if falling incorrectly, so their feet always face down when impacting the ground. Along the way, they keep a flexible back and neck, which is key to their survival. Is your team hitting the ground with their main shock absorbers? In a time of volatility, do you have a consistent Systems Thinking strategy that connects your team to customers, users and desired business outcomes?

See my vlog #3 Johan Cruijff – A Guide For Product Discovery where I tell how Lean, Systems Thinking and Design Thinking can help you today.


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Sonsoles Alonso – I help CxOs and Founders Build Highly Efficient Happy Teams in 6 Months or Less with the Right Hires, using Systemic Tools and Serious Games.

Are you in tech? I recently teamed up with top-rated instructor Mark Farragher for our online course ‘6 Tools To Improve Your Tech and Leadership Communication’.

Check also my 5-week online masterclass:

And my online class on Team Delegation and Leadership:

Would you like to read some other posts? My most successful one so far is The War Against Talent, with over 100000 views.