Core Components of Primal Leadership


1. Self-Awareness & Mindfulness

2. Leadership & Connection

3. Power & Vulnerability

4. Befriending the Shadows

5. Embodiment (Whole Being Wisdom)


1. Self-Awareness & Mindfulness

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You can’t do what you want, until you know what you’re doing.
— Moshe Feldenkreis


Self-awareness is our inner compass to study our beliefs, behaviors, thoughts, emotions, preferences and triggers, so we can access the greater aspects of who we are.

We live in a culture where we are praised for busyness and "doing.”  It takes immense courage and discipline to explore what’s behind the autopilot impulses of “doing” and yield to inspired action through “being.”

Becoming conscious about when we’re in coherence with mind and body or when we are in reactive states and behaviors is the trademark of a primal leader.

On one hand, self-awareness helps us to identify brings us joy, leverages our gifts and engenders a deep satisfaction and connection. On the other, self-awareness helps us notice where we suffer so we can uncover and transform challenging patterns, and evolve.


Mindfulness is the art of curating focused attention towards anything we want greater understanding, skill or expression with.

Mindfulness allows us to slow and suspend habitual and autopilot behaviors. This allows us to become more aware of subconscious patterning and make an empowered choice.

When we explore what’s happening beneath the surface, we may discover that we need to set a boundary, clarify our need, interrupt controlling patterns of fear, self-criticism or impulses to hide for fear of failure.

Through the awareness of our current state of mind, we initiate a “mindful pause” that allows us to stay green and keep going, or call red and course correct.

2. Leadership and connection

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An integrated leader is
the biggest change agent on the planet.


Knowing ourselves expands our capacity to know others. 

We influence the world around us based on the quality of presence we bring to our interactions. This includes how we recognize, manage and communicate our emotions, thoughts and beliefs.

As primal leaders, we practice taking responsibility for our beliefs and behaviors that solicit connection and disconnection, acceptance and disapproval, defensiveness and vulnerability.

Becoming aware of, noticing, and owning one’s direct experience in relationship to others is an evolving art form.


There are three key components that set the tone and quality of connection we experience with ourselves and others:

  1. Self: Our level of self-awareness and relationship to ourselves

  2. Other: The quality of presence we bring to each interaction including our ability to share authentically, listen, clarify, bring curiosity and check assumptions

  3. System: Cultivating an ability to observe, name and discuss dynamics and patterns of our relationships that cause disconnection; by looking at everyone’s contribution.

As primal leaders, we lead conversations by owning our experience and sharing our needs, expectations and boundaries in an open-hearted way.

We take responsibility for our projections and practice seeing the other person as they are rather than an agenda or fantasy of who we think they should be.  

We also practice being attuned to and naming the interpersonal dynamics that foster disconnection and the ones that foster connection.

3. power and vulnerability

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Power lives within our vulnerability and willingness to see things as they are not only how we want them to be.

Embodied power is the ability to be in our power of influence through self-awareness, taking personal responsibility and making conscious choice. 

As we investigate power dynamics we see the role we play in feeling victimized or resentful. We study the strategies we employ to protect our vulnerability to defend against feeling rejected, misunderstood, manipulated or controlled.

In the path of primal leadership, we recognize reactivity as our ally. We're not broken. It's normal to be reactive with defensive tendencies. We are wired to control, dominate, withdraw and manipulate when we feel vulnerable, scared or powerless It's how we have survived.

However, we experience freedom and empowerment when we see our defending happening and have the presence to course correct and repair.



Vulnerability is not weakness.
And, that myth is profoundly dangerous.

Vulnerability is the birthplace of
innovation, creativity and change
— Brene Brown

Vulnerability is one of the most powerful leadership assets and yet culturally it’s been framed as weak.

Vulnerability opens us into our humanity. It interrupts the weight of holding our shame alone. Vulnerability can short-circuit the habit of pretending we’re not impacted by the disturbances in our own system as well as the larger systems that we participate in (our organization, family, community, etc).

To embrace vulnerability is to recognize and track it through noticing:

  • What's happening inside through a self-inventory of emotions, thoughts, sensations and habits that lead to results we don't desire

  • Our capacity to open our heart towards parts of ourselves that we feel we should protect and hide

  • Internalized shame stories that drive our behavior and keep us in boxes

  • Reactive tendencies and taking full responsibly for our experience instead of dumping our emotional pain onto others in relationships

I define vulnerability as uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure.
To be human is to be in vulnerability
— Brene Brown

The most vulnerable attribute of being human is to live with so much uncertainty. 

It's a practice to listen deeply and slow down instead of react from the arsenal of strategies driven by fear, patterns of control and scarcity thinking all of which are designed to keep us "safe".

For example, if as leaders we think we have to know everything about running the business, being a good partner, parenting, managing running our lives then when a moment of uncertainty arises instead of saying, “I don’t know, I need help” we panic, make rash decisions from autopilot beliefs and act from fear.

If we say, I don’t know, then our courageous surrender into the unknown will likely reveal a pathway potentially with solutions far beyond what we could have imagined.

4. Befriending Our shadows

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Embracing our shadows is the pathway to becoming the change we wish to see in the world.  

Running away from our shadows and reactive tendencies reinforces strategies of protection, judgment, dissatisfaction, depression, loneliness and entrenched attachments to our self-image.

When we discover and accept our operating system, we can begin to integrate and weave exiled parts of us back into our basket of inherent wholeness.

To become our most integrated and whole self we must explore cultural as well as personal messages of disapproval and judgment. These are the messages that promote feelings of not being enough and shame for being who we are.

When we hear enough messages wrapped in "you should", "you're not enough" or "you need to work harder" from an early age, and long enough, it's easy to lose contact with who we are.  Direct contact with our most authentic self is often replaced by living a life of who we think we “should” be.

Befriending our shadows is a process of revealing our wisdom by coming home to all the ways we create separation inside and out.

There are two types of shadow integration.

  1. Self-Judgment Shadow: These are areas of disapproval that we consciously hold disapproval towards in others or in ourselves. 

  2. Blind Spot Shadow: These are blind spots about our thinking, emotional patterns, belief systems and our behavioral impact on others and ourselves.  These shadows are the seat of our unconscious reactivity.

    Blind spot shadows are often revealed when you hear yourself say, "I can't believe I did that, I couldn't stop myself." They are so automatic we don't even recognize them happening until after the fact.

5. Embodiment

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Primal Embodiment: To take full ownership for the wisdom and power through channels of wisdom beyond our rational, linear mind.

An embodied leader lives with a quality of presence, magnetism and inspiration that is beyond what is said.

Embodiment is a descent and integration from our heads into our hearts and into the ground of our presence of being.

Culturally we’ve been taught to value our intellect, disregard our feelings, and treat our body like a machine, often driving ourselves into illness and burnout.

When we are disconnected from our bodies and live primarily in our thoughts and habitual emotional patterns, we are missing a reservoir of our wisdom that waits patiently for our attention.

On the path of primal leadership, we reintegrate multiple channels of wisdom.

Let’s look at this through a metaphor. In the cockpit of an airplane, one prominent feature is the steering wheel. If we rely exclusively on this feature to set our course, track for changing conditions and assess potential threats, then we are flying partially blind. 

If we are only focused on the steering wheel, we are oblivious to there being a whole dashboard of instruments at our disposal. If left ignored, the result could be a crash.

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Our being holds an internal cockpit as well.

If we are solely focused on our cognitive (thinking) capacity to navigate our flight, then we may miss the incoming data from other channels of wisdom.

We leverage the full spectrum of our power and wisdom by consciously accessing our internal instruments of body sensations, intuition, emotions, thought patterns, heart desires, and the quiet voice within that just seems to know things that the mind may override or rebut because it’s not rational or logical. We also may include and harvest our reactivity patterns as allies and warning signals. 

When we practice deeper embodiment we notice, learn from and make use of multiple data sources that are presented to us.