On The Nerve to Lead podcast, your host, Sangheetha Parthasarathy encourages CEOs, Entrepreneurs, deep thinkers, the round-pegs-in-square-holes, change-makers and visionaries to share their stories of power, pleasure and passion.
We cover everything from nervous system regulation, high achievement, trauma healing, parenting, partnership and attachment, intimacy and more. You will also get to learn the stories and knowledge from our expert guests and thought leaders.
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Welcome to episode two, where Sangheetha talks about leadership, power, attachment and the power of doing the work to show up as an embodied leader, what some somatic patterns and considerations are while working with BIPOC/BAME, non-able bodied, non-cishet male bodies and which kind of leaders would benefit from somatic work.
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We have created an assessment for "High Functioning Workplace Stress" which you can download and use here:
Welcome to the Nerve to Lead podcast. Here we explore power, pleasure, leadership, identity, belonging, parenting, and couplehood, and explore stories of navigating through life, finding both authenticity and attachment through the common lens of the nervous system. I am your host Sangheetha Parthasarathy and I'm so glad you're here.
Today we're gonna talk about leadership and why there is a prerogative for leaders to work on attachment systems and neuroscience.
When we say leadership, I think there is a lot of science and research about leading. And a lot of times we equate leading with building high performance teams, having vision, motivating, all of that. And, I want to kind of zoom out that a little bit, you know, we can think of leadership in traditional sense of corporate achievement and power and going up the ladder, in a corporate sense, or starting up or being an entrepreneur in that sense. But we can also think of leadership as just people that are committed to making change, whether it's external or internal, whether you know, it's creating social impact, community leaders or people in our homes and in our communities, who are committed to leading with their bodies in an embodied way.
LEADERSHIP AND THE BODY
I think again, a lot of coaching, executive coaching and coaching modalities around leadership, I think, have very little to do with the body, if at all. And now that field is growing, embodied leadership. So it's either that or then we talk about trauma informed leadership, which again, talks about trauma in a singular sense. However, I think the missing piece is to really work at it at an individual as well as the collective level.
WHY WE NEED TO UNDERSTAND POWER TO ENGAGE IN LEADERSHIP
And for us to do that, we need to understand power. And when we talk about power, we usually think of power in context. If we think of power, we need to think of systems that either confer or not confer power on beings. We need to sit and reckon with collective systems that drive how much or if at all power individuals have and what it does to your nervous system.
POWER AS EARLY ATTACHMENT
So power is a very early attachment concept, okay? So when our nervous systems are being gestated in utero and through early infancy, a nervous system can be built either for survival or for thriving. So a developing infant has many neurological prerogatives. You can call it nervous system nourishment and nurturing, you know, giving the right vitamins at the right time from a nervous system standpoint. A huge piece of that is attachment, co-regulation, attunement, really attuning, attuning is different from attachment.
Attuning is, I'm going to stay with you long enough to really understand what you want. Okay? So attunement, mirroring, accurate mirroring, I'm going to mirror you back to yourself, right? Instead of projecting me onto you, right? And then there is needs, stories around existence. Am I allowed to exist? How do I feel about my existence? Stories about needs, am I allowed to have needs? What happens when I have needs? Do I feel okay to express them? And then what happens when they don't get met? And layers of shame, et cetera, which form a part of very early neural pathways of development, okay?
And then we have autonomy, which from a body perspective when a baby is, when we're all born, the baby physically does not understand that they are different from their caregiver mother, right? Because we were actually the same person in utero, right? So it is only through attuned caregiving, mirroring, touch input that slowly, the baby begins the process of differentiation and then individuation at a neurological level driven by sensory input, movement, touch, and later narration, words. So autonomy will, is another neurological stage where one begins to assert themselves. So if any of these developmental stages were not met with the right nourishment, we then develop adaptive strategies, which are either over bounded or under bounded, okay? In a bodily way. So what that means is, now I could be holding my body very rigidly and holding everything in as a way to control the autonomy piece, or I could just let go and be floppy.
Why does all of this matter is because your early attachment stories are carried into the nervous system if they have not been worked on and rewired for consistency and safety. What I mean by that is our nervous systems are very resilient with this idea called neuroplasticity, which means that they can be rewired for thriving rather than surviving with the right kind of work, which is what we do in session.
But when leaders don't understand this, then they don't invest in it for themselves. Then we approach leadership from a survival perspective rather than the thriving perspective. The other thing that does is then we don't reckon with the idea of power as a bodily concept, you know, the way we hold our bodies, you know, this is not about conflict communication workshops.
EARLY ATTACHMENT POWER BINARIES AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM
This is very early developmental stories that our bodies are carrying with respect to power. Therefore we could find leaders, whose bodies come in with a bodily experience of power being absolutes, okay? So that it's either power over or powerlessness, then that gets in the way of how we lead and how we show up both in a systemic sense as well as an individual sense. Therefore, I think it's the prerogative of every leader to invest in this, because early attachment sets the scene for how you hold your, how you hold power, you know, are you able to hold enough power in your body? How much do you yo yo between power over or helplessness, right?
POWER AMBIVALENCE AND PRIVILEGE AMBIVALENCE AND HOW IT SHOWS IN THE BODY
And are we ambivalent about power? This is a big thing. Leaders find ourselves grappling. High achievers, it's the same thing. Whenever you are growing and making an impact in the world, at every stage you're reckoning with personal power and collective power, and how you hold it and how you use it. This is huge.
And now a small break to talk about more resources. We've created an assessment for high functioning workplace stress, which you can download and use by clicking on the link in this episode show notes, and now back to the conversation.
A lot of us are carrying Power ambivalence and privilege ambivalence. What I mean by that is I am carrying a lot of ability or choice to do things, okay? And sometimes what happens is when we have power, and we come from early wiring where the bodies are looking at power as binaries right? Perpetrator, victim, you know, that binary, then it can be really scary to hold choice and power, and that shows up in interpersonal relationships as well. And it definitely shows up in leadership about this ability to hold.
WOUNDED LEADERS WE ALL KNOW ABOUT
And we've all seen the generation of wounded leaders, you know, a lot of very wounded leaders with very abusive early attachment wiring. And this is an extreme case, right? Who grew up being raised by one or more narcissistic parents where there was a power abuse at a very early age, and the child didn't really get seen or mirrored back accurately in who they were, like Donald Trump.
A lot of dictators, for example, had very abusive, neglectful slash hostile early wiring experiences. So with that what happens is then when we become leaders, it becomes very wounded leaders, right? Who then go on with their unhealed nervous system to be the kinda leaders that are actually detrimental to the world.
WOUNDED LEADERS YOU DO NOT HEAR ABOUT
Or the leaders that you don't hear about are the ones where that turns inward. And then we end up harming ourselves and are harming our ability to be leaders, where we get stressed and burnt out and, just want to run away with any form of power at all, which comes with loss of autonomy, and then the cycle continues. Which is why I think it's absolutely important for anybody who wants to be a leader in any sense of the word, to really reckon with early attachment systems, your own.
BEYOND PARENT-BASHING STEREOTYPES IN THERAPY/COACHING
And people think that when we talk about early attachments, especially in a therapeutic or a coaching sense, and this is very like a western way of saying it's all your parents fault. And so we're not talking about caregivers. We're working two or three levels down. You know, it is not about, just wanted to say that most caregivers or a big majority of caregivers think that they're doing the right thing for the children, but their behaviors and attachment is also being driven by their own stories, but also the very real survival energy, even economic survival that is reality for most people in the global south.
SOMATICS IN BIPOC or NON-CISHET-WHITE MALE BODIES
In addition, if you're not a cis-het white male in a white majority country, a lot of your body is going to be driven by freezing or fawning or appeasing when faced with this power binary. So therefore, trauma healing or nervous system regulation is not a one size fits all. And whereas most coaches or trauma specialists tend to be cis-het white, which, and that's not the problem.
My point is that, there is so much of nuance when you work with a body that is anything other than an able bodied, cis-het white male. Because the systems of training and how we approach therapy slash coaching are also defined by that. So my work is very color and privilege and power based, because then that's where we're really holding space for how the collective shows up in your body.
WHICH LEADERS INVEST IN SOMATIC WORK?
So again leaders, high achievers, by the time they come to me, they have invested a minimum of I would say like 50 to a hundred thousand dollars in constantly learning, getting enrolled in the next course, preparing for the next big brand opportunity. So hiring executive coaches, mentors, all of those things. And when you think of investing in the nervous system, it's profound, it's like, wow, this is the missing piece that finally connects all the dots of my life together. So yeah, that's why I think anybody who wants to make any change, be a leader in their personal life, break intergenerational patterns for themselves or their loved ones, wants to show up to be a better parent, better spouse, heal from power binaries, or just wants to show up differently in the world, and renegotiate a relationship with power that you can authentically reckon with, you should definitely book a call and let's talk.
Thank you for joining me today on Nerve to Lead Podcast. The music you hear in this podcast was created by Sound Creed. You can find their link in the description. Thank you to Vaishnavi and Pavithra in team Sangparth for producing and editing this podcast. Did this episode resonate with you? If it did, please share it with your friends, family, coworkers, or clients. We would also love to hear from you. Drop us a note on www.sangparth.com
Thanks to Sound Creed for the music, you can visit them here https://www.youtube.com/@SoundCreedLLP
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