How Horses can Teach us to be Better Leaders

Some people have a natural tendency to be great leaders; others have to work a little harder at it. If you have observed the great leaders in your company, you may have wondered what makes them great. Some leaders are appointed and we know we are supposed to follow their lead but somehow they fall short in their leadership roles. Others are not in any leadership position yet we naturally want to follow them. What’s the difference? What do leaders do that attracts followers and what do they do that keeps followers following them?

A lot of my training as a team building and leadership coach comes from my horses. Don’t laugh! You’d be surprised at how horses test leadership roles on a daily basis. If you want to be the alpha-mare, the one to lead the herd to water, you better be a great leader. So here is what I have learned from horses:

1-    Have a plan

2-    Set your boundaries

3-    Be consistent

4-    Don’t move your feet

5-    Finish what you started

If you want to accomplish anything with a horse and have it look fluid, refined and natural, you must have a plan. That plan needs to be chunked up into smaller pieces so that you are able to introduce it to the horse and have it make sense to him. For example: if you want to have him pull a buggy, you would not strap a buggy to him and expect him to pull it. You would need to chunk it into smaller steps until eventually he would pull the buggy. You had the outcome in mind so that you could chunk it into smaller and smaller pieces. Do the same for your team. Have a plan and chunk it down.

Set your boundaries and stick to it. Some people won’t feed horses treats because they don’t want their horse to get in the habit of searching for food or nibbling on hands. That’s a boundary. If you don’t stick to this boundary but offer your horse

treats once in a while, don’t be offended or shocked if he looks for treats all the time. A boundary sets up perimeters for your team to follow.

Consistency is a great teacher. It also offers a feeling of comfort and safety. In the horse world, you absolutely need consistency. Consistency is what creates trust. Use consistency in abundance to create trust within your team.

Horses test your leadership by pushing into you. If they can make you move your feet, they have “won.” The less you move your feet the more of a leadership role you have. Your employees are not much different. They will test how much you are willing to deviate from the set rules you have for them. You will be tempted to let things slide or give in or not worry about it “this time”. Convert that into horse language and you are at the bottom of the pecking order. Stand your ground and you will be a worthy leader.

Always finish what you started. Horses, and employees, will test your patience, your resilience, and your follow through. A lead mare will always follow through. She will get her way or be considered second in line. That doesn’t mean that you have to be rude; it does not mean you have to micromanage; and it certainly does not mean that you have to be aggressive. It just means that you have to finish what you started otherwise you are not worthy of being followed.

Be a great leader in your company, in your department, or your division. Leaders come in all types of styles and sizes. If you work with people, you can be a leader. Remember to have a plan, set your boundaries, be consistent, don’t move your feet, and finish what you started.

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