CHAPTER FIVE

Listening to the Music Beneath the Words

The Practice of Presence

MOST PEOPLE have experienced what it feels like to be “held” by someone who might be described as a powerful speaker, whether a political leader, a musical performer, or a great teacher. At such times, we sense a kind of inner strength, public poise, and a quality of connection that is difficult to describe and unmistakable when experienced. We might call this a capacity for presence.

In the imagination of oneself as a leader, it is often presumed that what is needed are innate or acculturated traits of personality—including the capacity to secure an easy celebrity and the illusions of control. The discovery that the activity of courageous, adaptive leadership inevitably ...

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