Being Fully Present in a Complex World

A Conversation with David Daniel from Fully Integrated Leadership

In this episode, I am joined by William Walker, a coach and entrepreneur who works with individuals, teams, and organizations to develop sustainable practices that meet with their specific circumstances.  William’s coaching is integrally informed, developmental, and authenticity-driven and helps his clients constantly inquire into what is happening right now in their lives and what the best actions are to take based on that knowledge.

In the interview, William guides us in an “embodiment practice” that he uses in his own life and with his clients.  He then talks about how this practice, and other practices meant to cultivate presence, can help in practical ways in our life and leadership.  We spend quite a lot of time in the interview practicing and talking about presence.  I encourage you to actively participate in the practices as we walk through them in the interview.

Towards the end of the interview, William and I talk about co-hosting a follow up call for people interested in asking questions, sharing, and continuing the conversation.  If you are interested, please contact David Daniel at


Some of the resources mentioned during the interview include:

Leading From Your Growing Edge

Leadership is a hot topic. Maybe too hot. Not because it’s not important, but because anything that becomes caught up in too many conversations about itself can lose its aliveness, its directness and self-implication.

I personally studied leadership theories (and still do) for years professionally and academically, listened to mentors’ and colleagues conceptions of leadership and influence, watched their influence, tested my own influence, took on my own leadership challenges, and watched all the theories go out the door.

Many theoretical contributions of leadership have been and are useful. I’m not going to review any of them here. Leadership theories can if engaged sincerely speak to and awaken the specific quality or capacity that is asking us to lean into it, become it, or act for it whether that is a character trait, behaviour/outcome, relational skill, or more intimacy with the present moment. Depending where we are at or where we are stuck a particular theory may bring us right where we need to be to integrate more of ourselves in service of our specific leadership mission. This is the best case scenario.

On the other hand, certain theories simply reinforce the very patterns that our emergent leadership is longing to break. Theories are alluring and can be very rich depending on the complexity within them because they typically hold heroes at the helm, host a community of followers, and may draw more on our followership than our authorship. They can also attract the weaker parts of us that are looking for safe havens and excuses to not further develop. In other words, these theories reinforce our blind spots, pull us away from our present state of being, dramatise trendy or naive expressions of heroism (i.e. versions where the self always wins), and remove us from our inherent self knowing and self generating aliveness within. The result of unhealthy fixation on any theoretical construct is self and other dissociation and this can obviously lead to bad decisions, unbalanced view points, avoidance in taking our own true stances, or justification of ethical blind spots.

In place of, or alongside a relevant theory that meets you where you are, I recommend seeking sufficient feedback, mirroring, and attuned presencing of your particular leadership issues by skilled coaches, consultants or colleagues. It may not be a theory you need at all, or at least not a dead one, and you may find yourself living into your own living theory, rather than the safe ground of those that just may not be asking enough of you.

3 Coaching Traps That May Stifle Your Practice

This short article is for beginning and seasoned coaches who may feel burnt out, listless or in doubt over their practice. I have practiced coaching for several years and have noticed three themes that have surfaced from time to time in my own and other coaches’ work. To be aware of these potential patterns can help keep your practice liberated and maturing. Here are the three traps and potential ways to navigate them:

1. Depersonalization.

By depersonalization I am not necessarily referring to extreme forms of detachment that would be categorized as dissociative personality disorder. Here I am referring to more subtle and coaching contextual habits of detachment of oneself and one’s personalness out of a belief that this is of service to the client. These are the moments when we check out or take an overly disengaged observer or witnessing role out of unconscious habit. Or, we don’t speak up. A part of us is there but we are not ‘wholly’ there. After a session where we have depersonalized we might feel depleted, left out, or even rejected. In such cases this has to do with how we are holding ourselves in relation to the client. We need to do both as coaches–be a participant in holding space as well as present and engaged (i.e. fully with ourselves).

If you notice this happening to yourself in a coaching session I recommend making conscious inner contact with yourself again such as feeling your feet and arms, your bones, nervous system, etc. In other words, presence yourself and re-engage.

2. Not Prioritizing your Needs.

There are many kinds of coaching, containers for coaching and optimal conditions for the kind of work you do. In this time of technological accessibility it is easy to do coaching online but it is not best for everyone and especially not initially. When I started coaching I did a lot of work with people outdoors and I still do sometimes. I also engaged the body quite a bit through movement. This isn’t as much of a need for me today as it was then but sometimes I am called to do it. Trust what you need to get coaching and to unfold your coaching. In addition to context, timing is important. Respect your limits. And finally, your process is your process and you may, depending on your work and your client’s work, need to entrain your clients into your process. For instance, you may need to pause to take something in, to really get your client. Tell them and take the space you need. In this you are also modeling leadership in taking care of your needs. Likewise, if you intuit your client needs a particular movement to integrate something invite them to do so.

Not taking care of your legitimate needs in the coaching space won’t help your practice grow, it will disengage you and you may feel dis-empowered. Know and learn about your needs as you coach and act on them.

3. Let your personal unfoldment have a place in your practice.

What is going on in our personal evolution may sometimes seem like an impediment to our practice or to our clients but this belief is worth challenging. First of all, you are always likely going to be unfolding new meaning and complexity personally so we can forget about thinking we need to have arrived somewhere as a coach. Mastery does not mean completion. Secondly, it is possible that this personal edge or major transformation you are going through is of potential benefit to your client as well as an entirely new demographic you could open to work with. Coaching is not only about skills it is about you, what experiences you have integrated, what territory you have lived and know that others would feel safe with you guiding them through it. To clarify this is not about us taking over the coaching session though you have to trust your style and attune to what is happening in the coaching space. Sometimes the raw experience I share that I initially felt I needed to hide opens the client’s connection to their authentic voice and it creates more efficiency in the coaching space.

Be willing to bring yourself in in ways you intuit as appropriate. This will leave you feeling like you made a deeper impact then simply demonstrating your listening skills. Further, this is also what differentiates you. 

Finally, let your practice breath. Sometimes you might need a break, a different experience or two, or new projects to engage which, when you come back to your coaching practice, will make it even stronger.

I hope this helps, beginners and masters alike. If you want to talk about your coaching practice in more detail feel free to send me a message.