Integrative Presence

When working with teams of engineers, I enjoy asking if anyone has invented a successful time machine. Of course, they always say no. Then I ask, “So you are certain that no one can travel to the past and the future?” They laugh and agree. Therefore, there is no reality outside of the present moment. The future is a speculation, and the past is what we have recorded in our memory or in writing.


Yet how much of the time do most leaders spend traveling to the past and the future in their mind? I would suggest, too much. The best leaders realize that being able to live in the present moment is the secret to both personal power and strategic advantage. They learn to see through false realities and connect with true reality.


An Example from Sports


After watching Florence Joyner win the hundred meter dash, the TV interviewer showed a super slow motion playback of her run. She was about equal with the field through the middle of the run, and then she leaped out way ahead of the field to win the race. The interviewer played the run again, and just as she put distance between her and the field, the interviewer stopped the tape and pointed to the screen and asked, “What happens right here?” Florence answered, “I just let go.”


She stopped thinking about the race and slipped into what sports coaches call “The Zone” and, of course, her performance accelerated dramatically. She was integrating all her training with the reality of the present. Being able to find your way into “The Zone” is critical for success as an athlete. Some respond to pressure by “clutching” and thereby reducing performance, and others slip into “The Zone.” Michael Jordan was famous for performing better under pressure, as are many successful athletes. As a leader, is this true for you? When the pressure is on, do you call for the ball?

Integrative Presence

Sports coaches realize that if athletes think too much about the past and the future, they will miss the reality of what is happening in the present. The future extends from the present, not from the cognitive frameworks in your mind. Those who can let go of their thoughts will find it easier to integrate their actions with present reality. In business we call this “Integrative Presence.”

If an athlete can create this state of mind, so can a leader. If these states of mind that seem to create super human results can be created in one area of life, they should be able to be created in others. While the environment is right for this kind of performance in sports, it is not beyond or separate from the business world. The most effective leaders have mastered Integrative Presence.


Integrative Presence unleashes genius in any endeavor. Integrative Presence, as I define it, is collaboration with the natural flow that extends from the present integrated with the knowledge, intention and consciousness of an individual or group.Integrative Presence allows you to integrate all the realities of the moment simultaneously while combining them with your intention. Those who master this will Unleash Genius within themselves, and the people who follow them, to create new realities once unimaginable.

Business is much more complex than sports, but the state of mind that creates Integrative Presence is as important for leaders as it is for athletes.The best leaders are able to achieve this state at will. In a board meeting or when closing an important deal, the best leaders can be in the present while integrating their knowledge and all the events that are happening around them simultaneously.


It is my experience that “Integrative Presence” occurs with:

  • Commitment to an important mission
  • Clear goals that the person believes are important to achieve
  • The stress of a situation that requires immediate action
  • Danger that must be responded to
  • Focusing and connecting with the present moment
  • Being out in nature for long periods of time
  • Not taking your thoughts seriously

The truth is anything can cause your conscious mind to let go of comparative thought and find Integrative Presence. It would be impossible to catalog all experiences people have had. What is important is to know the difference between the two states of mind. The key is to find you’re personal road map from over-thinking to this powerful state.


When I have asked people to describe how they feel when they experience “Integrative Presence” they say things like: confident, at peace, exhilarated, powerful, graceful, focused and present. Some report a slow-motion effect. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar told how the five seconds he had to win the NBA championship with one shot seemed like five minutes. He felt relaxed, as if he had all the time in the world, yet he appeared to move like lightning to the rest of the world--the very definition of “Integrative Presence.” His creativity, within these few precious seconds, was nothing less than pure genius. He was integrating the skills he had learned over the years, his desire to make the shot, and the flow of the moment.


Most people have experienced this state of mind; the question is what percent of your life is spent in this state. The art of getting into this state of mind is letting go of thoughts and connecting with the flow of events in the moment.


There is no Substitute for Practice


As in sports, there is no substitute for practice. Knowing how to move from “normal thinking” into Integrative Presence comes from practice. Take time to connect with your peak experiences and observe how you transitioned yourself. Find ways to still your mental chatter and connect with the present, and you will become a much more effective leader and a happier person.


Paul David Walker, CEO Coach