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Report: The urgent need for somatic leadership in high-growth tech organizations

Apr 24, 2024


As high-growth industries like tech, emerging tech and blockchain continue to evolve at an unprecedented rate, leadership strategies that integrate cognitive, emotional, and physical well-being—termed as somatic leadership—are becoming increasingly essential. This article explores the integration of somatic practices into leadership to enhance resilience, decision-making capacity, and emotional intelligence, crucial for navigating the complexities of fast-paced business environments.


Leaders in sectors like technology, fintech, and blockchain face intense pressure as they scale their people. According to the International Coaching Federation (ICF), a staggering 60% of new leaders fail within their first 18 months, often due to issues related to stress, communication breakdowns, and an inability to adapt to changing circumstances. Traditional leadership approaches are no longer sufficient to address these challenges effectively, necessitating a more holistic approach that encompasses both the mind and body.

The Science of Somatic Leadership

Neuroscientific research underscores the impact of physical health on cognitive functions. For instance, chronic stress can impair brain function, affecting areas involved in memory, executive function, and emotion regulation. According to Sapolsky (2004) in "Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers," prolonged stress can disrupt synaptic regulation, leading to decreased cognitive functions and increased emotional reactivity.

Furthermore, a study by Davidson et al. (2003) in "Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation" found that regular mindfulness practices could significantly improve brain and immune function, which are crucial for effective leadership.

Challenges in High-Growth Businesses

Leaders in high-growth businesses frequently encounter operational bottlenecks and workforce management challenges that can lead to inefficient practices such as overworking and micromanagement. These practices not only reduce productivity but also lead to higher turnover rates and employee burnout, highlighting the need for leadership approaches that prioritize long-term well-being over short-term gains.


  • A Harvard Business Review study found that workplace stress contributes to an estimated $190 billion in healthcare costs annually in the United States alone.
  • According to the American Institute of Stress, workplace stress causes more than 120,000 deaths and $190 billion in healthcare costs in the United States each year.

Principles of Somatic Leadership

Somatic leadership encompasses a set of practices aimed at integrating body awareness, breathwork, and grounding techniques into leadership development and organizational culture. At its core, somatic leadership recognizes the interconnectedness of mind and body, emphasizing the importance of bodily sensations, emotions, and posture in shaping leadership effectiveness.


The concept of somatics draws from various disciplines, including psychology, neuroscience, and embodied cognition. It is rooted in the understanding that our bodies are not just vessels for carrying out cognitive functions but play an integral role in shaping our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors. Somatic practices have been used for centuries in various cultural and spiritual traditions, but their application in leadership development gained prominence in recent decades.

Core Practices:

  1. Body Awareness: Central to somatic leadership is the cultivation of body awareness, the ability to perceive and interpret physical sensations and cues. Leaders are trained to tune into subtle bodily signals that indicate stress, tension, or discomfort, allowing them to respond more effectively to challenging situations. By developing heightened body awareness, leaders can gain insights into their own reactions and those of others, fostering greater self-regulation and empathy.

  2. Belly Breath: A fundamental practice in somatic leadership is belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing. This technique involves deep, slow breaths that engage the diaphragm and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting relaxation and stress reduction. By anchoring attention to the rhythmic rise and fall of the abdomen, leaders can counteract the physiological effects of stress and cultivate a calm, centered state of mind conducive to clear decision-making and effective communication.

  3. Grounding: Grounding practices aim to anchor individuals in the present moment and foster a sense of connection with their physical environment. This may involve techniques such as mindfulness walking, where leaders consciously attune to the sensations of each step and the surrounding environment, or focusing on physical touchpoints to center attention and dissipate mental distractions. Grounding techniques help leaders maintain a sense of presence and resilience, particularly in high-pressure situations where clarity and focus are paramount.

Application in Leadership:

The principles of somatic leadership find application across various domains of leadership, from individual self-mastery and stress resilience to team dynamics and organizational culture. By integrating somatic practices into leadership development programs and daily routines, organizations can cultivate resilient, empathetic leaders capable of navigating complexity and fostering positive change. Moreover, somatic leadership principles offer a holistic approach to leadership development, addressing not only cognitive skills but also embodied wisdom and emotional intelligence.

To get started with stress-reducing somatics practices, download this free starter pack.

Implementing Somatic Leadership in High-Growth Businesses

Strategic Implementation:

Businesses should start by integrating somatic practices into their leadership development programs through workshops, coaching and training sessions that emphasize the importance of physical and emotional health in leadership effectiveness.

Monitoring Success:

Organizations should track the effectiveness of somatic practices through regular feedback and performance reviews, which can assess changes in leadership effectiveness, employee satisfaction, and overall business performance.

Case Studies

Technology startups like Google and Airbnb have embraced somatic leadership principles to foster a culture of well-being and innovation. Through initiatives such as mindfulness training, yoga classes, and on-site wellness programs, these companies have seen improvements in employee engagement, creativity, and retention. It’s a relatively new concept that’s being used by more and more tech, emerging tech and even blockchain companies to support their leaders and teams.


For Individual Leaders:

Leaders should incorporate at least 10 minutes of somatic practices, such as grounding, NLP tapping or mindfulness meditation, into their daily routine. Such practices can be created and mapped out using simple ritual planners to ensure consistency.

Try out this comprehensive stress resilience bundle to assess your stress resilience, identify your triggers, and reduce stress long term. Includes video training, somatic resources, assessments and ritual planner.

For Organizations:

Organizations are encouraged to formalize the training and practice of somatic techniques. This can include training, coaching and resources to create space for these activities.

Here's a 30 day challenge with your team to get started!


Somatic leadership is no longer optional but a necessity in high-growth business environments. Integrating mind-body practices into leadership development can significantly enhance leaders' effectiveness, contributing to sustainable business growth and a healthier work environment.


  • Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers.
  • Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S.

Additional Resources

  • Goleman, D., & Davidson, R. J. (2017). Altered Traits: Science Reveals How Meditation Changes Your Mind, Brain, and Body.
  • Boyatzis, R., & McKee, A. (2005). Resonant Leadership: Renewing Yourself and Connecting with Others Through Mindfulness, Hope, and Compassion.
  • Siegel, D. J. (2010). The Mindful Therapist: A Clinician's Guide to Mindsight and Neural Integration.


Leaders: Lower your stress in less than 5 minutes.

Use the soothing exercises in this guide when you're stressed and overwhelmed to instantly find yourself back in a place of calm & confidence.
* especially good for stressful work days where you just want to hide and cry.


Yes please!