Embodied Leadership?

Preparing for my talk at the ACRL 2015 Scholarship Breakfast, I’ve been struggling with how to tie a new-to-me theory called embodied care to leadership, leading, and community building. Whether this is even a good theoretical framework to use I don’t know, but I’m going to run with it anyway. For me thinking about the body, physicality, and the corporeal in relationship to leadership relates to how I view and libraries and how I hope I approach my work on a daily basis.

Libraries are a human enterprise. So what does it mean to be a human leader in a human enterprise? How do we remain human in our Western academic culture that has, historically, valued the mind over the body? How can we embody care when we work with students and colleagues?

Somehow it loops back to storytelling for me. I do not see myself as a “leader,” but rather as someone who is passionate and (over)engaged. The things that inspire me and keep me passionate and engaged are hearing others stories, and sharing my own–what seems to be a very basic human need to connect with others.

And storytelling in academia seems problematic–where the logical mind has been valued over embodiment of research, experience, and stories. My colleague, Bob Schroeder, recently explored indigenous research methods.  In conversations with him about how we share and understand and engage with each other individually and in communities, I’ve begun to seriously doubt how much we can actually learn from unembodied discourse and academic work. It’s compassion and emotion and physicality and care and knowledge and communication all wrapped into our human packages–the whole humanness–that we can bring to the present and share stories. In turn, I think, we are more empowered to learn and create and engage in community. And that’s how we lead. We tell stories and we hear stories and we bring our human selves.

But that’s not easy. I bounced some of these ideas off of some public health colleagues last night, who brought a completely other perspective to these thoughts, and reminded me that most people are unaware of the connection between mind and body, and it is only with an intentional awareness practice that we start to liberate ourselves from valuing the rational and knowable (aka Enlightenment thinking).

I’ve got about five days to get this to make sense.


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