APPLICATIONS IN LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
The lead mare sets the tone and direction for the herd. She signals at the first sign of danger (environmental or predator) and the herd responds, as her leadership has been tested and tried and she has proven herself competent and wise over time.
Horses are social hierarchal animals, each with specific roles and responsibilities in the herd. Roles are not better than or more important, rather each individual is a leader and leadership is shared.
Every member contributes to the socialization of the new or the young, schooling what behaviors are acceptable and correcting unwanted behavior. The ever- present and primary goal of herd leadership is self-care and cooperation.
DIRECTION AND PACE
The horse lives in 360-degree awareness, and can detect the slightest shifts in the field. The herd responds swiftly by coming together and moving towards safety and or away from danger. What is happening for the individual, for the herd and in the larger environment are all considered simultaneously.
Horses, like all animals rely on how they feel, rather than what they think. Often they must make split second decisions based on instinct, as they have never lost the ability to trust this primary navigational system.
As leaders we can typically ignore environmental cues, overriding natural flow and rhythm. We are often agenda driven, setting a pace that creates fatigue, burn out and resentment. Horses remind us of the need for self-care continually adjusting and assessing our surroundings to insure the safety and well being of our “human herd.”
The word leadership can often be triggering for many of us who have had bad experiences with leaders; often feeling dominated or suppressed rather than inspired and motivated. Observing a herd of horses can often deconstruct our limited ideas of leadership, and reconstruct new possibilities for leading both others and us.
Authenticity is defined as our inner landscape matching our outer expression. Authentic expression creates an environment where trust can foster, and others feel safe to express themselves. Humans are the only species that can think one thing, feel another and act still another. Horses (and all animals) are incapable of this split, and in their presence encourage our human practice of being responsible and cohesiveness in our thoughts, feelings and actions.
Horses offer a unique ability to instantly reflect back how effective or not are being with them. Partnering in an activity with a horse presents a golden opportunity to re-examine our presence and our leadership style often illuminating where we are failing to communicate, and where we can leverage our excellence.