Leadership – are children leading the way?


September 9th, 2014

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An article in this week’s TES  caught my attention as it reported that equine assisted learning is being put to good use by helping children to improve their self-esteem, teamwork and non-verbal communication.

But it’s not just children who can learn valuable lessons from being around horses.

We all know effective leadership is key to organisational success – our own research highlights leadership development as the number one focus in meeting organisations’ challenges. And organisations have a long list of qualities that they expect from their leaders – clarity of thought, excellent decision making, depth and authenticity, resilience, passion, adaptability in the face of complexity and ambiguity. Unsurprisingly the availability of these super-humans is limited as organisations continue report that they do not have the leadership capability required. That suggests that their methods of leadership development are simply not working.

My colleagues at Roffey Park experiencing equine assisted learning

My colleagues at Roffey Park experiencing equine assisted learning

Recently we have started to see results with a methodology that brings leaders fully into the power of their own being in the moment – often known as leadership embodiment. Organisations are starting to wake up to the power of this, but many haven’t, yet. Equine assisted learning is a key tool to enhancing your leadership embodiment.

Leaders can learn a lot about how they are showing up when they try and lead a horse. You may have the title, but unless you are authentic, congruent and present as a leader then a horse isn’t going to spare your blushes when you ask them to follow and they don’t believe you. With a horse, it’s not just about a nice to have when they ask ‘who’s in charge here, me or you?’ it’s a matter of safety or even survival. Now, there aren’t actually that many wolf packs roaming the countryside these days, but their senses and their social structures have been honed for many thousands of years when there were. Survival of the fittest for such a large prey animal wasn’t just based on physical strength or speed, it was about maintaining the social cohesion that enabled them to be stronger, together. A lesson we could all surely learn from in what often seems to be an unnecessarily individually competitive world.

When we work with horses to help leaders get a clearer appreciation of what impact their presence is having, (or not) we encourage them to get in touch with what really matters to them as a leader, to stay connected to that purpose. Sometimes the horse’s feedback is very subtle, but it is clear as the facilitator when the person leading has lost touch with that purpose and gone into task mode, or simply let their inner talk take them away from being present in the moment.

Some people may be skeptical and think that working with horses in this way is just a gimmick, but as facilitator for over 15 years I’ve never come across a methodology that gets the heart of someone’s leadership issues so quickly, often in as little as 20mins. That’s not to say that the issue can always be resolved in that time, but the insight generated is phenomenal.

You can download a free whitepaper called Leading with Presence which provides some tips on how you can improve your presence and leadership embodiment.

If you would like to discuss equine assisted learning further then please do not hesitate to contact me.