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Embodied leadership: towards a new way of developing leaders

Peter Hamill (Associate Consultant at Roffey Park Institute, Horsham, UK)

Strategic HR Review

ISSN: 1475-4398

Article publication date: 9 August 2011




The purpose of this paper is to critique common practice in leadership development with a view to suggesting an alternative approach based on neuroscience.


The paper references existing research in the field of neuroscience to carry out a critique, before presenting a case study of a different approach to leadership development.


Current leadership development practice relies heavily on the use of models and theories, and the development of self‐awareness. The paper uses findings from neuroscience to question whether these approaches produce sustainable changes. These findings suggest that models and theories do not impact the regions of the brain required for behavioral change. They also suggest that self‐awareness, while an essential starting point, may not be enough. The paper goes on to explore approaches involving the body in learning motor skills as a way of developing leadership, and moving from self‐awareness to self‐cultivation.

Practical implications

This paper suggests that some of the approaches to leadership development will need to change if the results intended are to be achieved.


The emerging field of neuroscience has the potential to increase understanding of leadership development. However, the challenge is that much of the writing on neuroscience is not accessible to those outside the field. This is starting to change, and this article seeks to make some important findings from neuroscience available for practitioners, to improve the efficacy of leadership development approaches. The approaches to leadership critiqued here are commonplace and the embodied leadership development suggested is not mainstream. This offers some new options for leadership developers interested in developing sustainable change.



Hamill, P. (2011), "Embodied leadership: towards a new way of developing leaders", Strategic HR Review, Vol. 10 No. 5, pp. 5-10.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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