Whilst there has been writing in recent years regarding the practice turn in contemporary theory and its connection to leadership, much of this has remained abstract and lacks empirical inquiry. In addition, whilst practice-based theorists write about the embodied nature of practices, in defining their work, the body then often moves to the background. This study is designed to contribute to understanding the way in which embodied practices develop a shift in skilful performance in the domain of leadership practice within organisations, keeping the physical body in the foreground of the inquiry. This inquiry develops three original contributions through an action research study with six senior leaders from different organisations. Firstly, embodied practices enable emotional learning, which allows a more skilful interaction with the social world. This occurs because an individual can have a depth of experience, an ability to understand a situation, and still be limited in their ability to act by their embodied history. Embodied practices can enable an individual to bring their experience and understanding to situations, taking new actions, and this learning may not even be noticed in the moment. Secondly, in developing a more skilful interaction with the social world, the power dynamics present in the field are shifted in ways that do not correspond with traditional hierarchical notions of power. Embodied practices appear to enable one to align in harmony with the power in the system. This can result in an assessment of greater power by others, and if done with balanced boundaries, can be generative; experienced as a ‘power with’ rather than ‘power over’. Finally, embodied practices enabled observation of, and dis-identification with, thoughts, emotions, and sensations, which appears to have moved participants towards a dissolution of a fixed sense of self, something which is pointed to in many philosophic and spiritual traditions. In addition, context appears to play a role in highlighting development needs in relation to the commitments leaders hold, and the reflexive dialogue of the research process became a valuable practice, alongside the embodied practices. Together these may contribute to our understanding of developing leadership as skilful performance in the moment.

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