“This feedback hurts a bit,” Rachel said with a big sigh as we debriefed her leadership assessment results. “But I know it’s exactly what I need to hear right now” she courageously said with her next breath. As a long-time senior healthcare leader, she’d recently been waking up with an uneasy, lackluster feeling that something was missing—that her mojo had faded, and with it, her exuberance and effectiveness.
As an early step in our executive coaching work together, we’d implemented a 360-degree leadership assessment to ask her ecosystem of stakeholders—bosses, peers, customers, partners, direct reports, and even key family members and friends—to give her trustworthy, candid feedback. And they did, wholeheartedly so. They underscored her genius (for she’d been an exceptional leader), as well as ways she was limiting her leadership potential, and perhaps more importantly, her joy overall.
Rachel was already skilled in the powers of self-observation: she had a keen self-awareness, could witness her actions without too harsh of judgment, and was able to make decisions constructively rather than be driven by regrets about the past or anxieties about the future. She knew how to listen to cues in her language, emotions, and body as vital personal feedback. But in this phase of life—with so much of her identity at stake in her career—she wasn’t sure about how to uncenter. Yet, she knew it would be the only way to bring inspiration and meaning back into her leadership and her life.
What does it mean to uncenter? In the simplest terms, it means to move away from a center. Yet, it isn’t always that simple. Like most leaders with the uncomfortable feeling it may be time for significant change, for Rachel uncentering would mean actively exploring and possibly unseating a few longstanding beliefs that defined her. That kind of uncentering is disruptive on purpose.
For me, the notion of uncentering is crystal clear in the physical practices of yoga. Let’s say I make my way into Vrksasana (Tree Pose) with the best tools I know for maintaining focus and opening energy flow—breathing, using a one-pointed gaze (drishti), lifting the crown of my head at the same time the sole of my foot I’m standing on presses into the floor. These tools have aided me in discovering center, physically and emotionally, for years—in yoga poses, in business partnerships, in competitive activities, in the best and worst of life. Nevertheless, sometimes I fall—and just like that, I’m askew and off balance…I am uncentered.
There is a grace in uncentering intentionally. Doing so can offer the greatest gifts, the seeds of deeper learning. And if we are to move into a new expression of consciousness and competence in leading and living, uncentering is necessary. It shifts the role of leadership to a path of practice along with making an impact. By learning how to actively uncenter from old ways of being and redefining ourselves in a new sense of purpose, confidence, and inspired commitment, we are better able to improve existence for ourselves and the lives we touch.
Educator Palmer Parker takes the idea of uncentering a beautiful step further in his recent blog, The Grandness of Uncentering Ourselves:
“How grand it would be if we could put the largeness of life itself, not our egos, at the center of our attention, care, and active concern.”
I ask you to consider: What within you is waiting to unfold? What signals are telling you it’s time to embrace a change? How might you use the act of consciously uncentering as a route to your thriving and growth?
If you’d like to learn more about how to activate thriving in your leadership and organization—and contribute to the growing movement to accelerate thriving globally—please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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