Leadership Lessons from Horses
Author: Yolanda Sing
Let’s talk about leadership. Leading people requires many skills. Daniel Goleman, in his book Working with Emotional Intelligence, says that a leader needs five skills:
Well what Goleman didn’t realize is that all these skills are found in – you guessed it – a horse! Have a look at the first one – self-awareness. Horses’ awareness is so fine that they tune into all the emotions of the humans they interact with. In the wild, horses were preyed upon for food since the beginning of time by wild dogs, big cats and primitive man. Their survival depended on their ability to be fully in tune with their surroundings. They needed to be very perceptive and fast in reaction time. Like humans, they use all of their senses – sight, smell, hearing, feeling and taste – to take in their surroundings. However, horses’ senses are more acute. Their smell is similar to that of a dog. They can smell fear or anger in humans, and when smelling the ground they can identify who has passed by. When interacting with people, the horses’ acute awareness allows them to recognize the slightest uneasiness or tension in our bodies, as well as the non-verbal messages. Their keen perception allows them to notice any difference between our actions and our emotions. They are that perceptive!
That’s what makes them such amazing teachers. The horses’ unique sense of awareness and their ability to reflect the emotions of humans make them the perfect co-facilitator in leadership development training. By seeing how a horse reacts to them, entrepreneurs can learn how others perceive them and how their actions are being interpreted.
And there is more to it. Can you imagine suddenly being a field with a large, powerful horse? Accomplishing a task involving a horse provides a wonderful metaphor when dealing with intimidating situations either inside or outside the workplace. Horses are large and powerful animals – they provide a natural opportunity to overcome fear and develop self-confidence. Working with horses offers the unique experience of developing a deeper understanding of yourself and how others perceive you, what motivates you, your adaptability and flexibility in changing situations, your innovativeness, level of commitment and initiative and ultimately your ability to understand and lead others. The best lessons learned from horses are those that allow us to adapt our behaviours to be more balanced and co-operative. Horses teach us to be conscious leaders! To truly lead others you must first understand yourself and recognize your areas of strengths and areas for development.
What makes learning with horses so different is that learning takes place on the spot. The impact and learning are more powerful than the traditional methods of classroom training. Participants are taken out of their comfort zones and are so much more open to the process of self-discovery. Funnily enough, they are more willing to accept feedback from a horse than from another human being.
About the Author: Yolanda Sing a professional coach, equine facilitator and author of the book ‘Power In The Paddock’.
Contact Yolanda in our coach database.
You can read more about Yolanda’s work on her blog
Photocredit: David Dibert/ Unsplash