Leadership Lessons from a Thousand Pound Teacher

After leaving high school I spent 2 years working with horses in Northern Ireland and England. This life experience was profound and enriched my life in many ways. When a colleague from Alberta, Canada, Jennifer Koh, sent me her recent blog, https://wildleaders.wordpress.com/ intuitively I knew this was perfect to share with our leadership community.

Great leaders have discovered the power of personal transformation and self-mastery to lead effectively, continuously learning and growing from events that happen around them. Personal transformation happens on the inside first, and then manifests on the outside in new behaviours. It means a new way of being that results in working with people with more awareness and understanding. Our teachers can be many…

Leadership Lessons from a Thousand Pound Teacher by Jennifer Koh
Over the past two and a half years, my coaching journey has led me to discover leadership through the eyes of the pride and the herd. I have had the good fortune to learn from lions and elephants in the South African bushveld, as well as wild and free-roaming horses in Canada. All three animals have gifted me with wisdom that cannot have been gleaned from text books, human teachers or the boardroom.
For eighteen months now I have learned from free-roaming horses in British Columbia and Alberta, Canada. Eight months ago I partnered with Meagan Saum and her beautiful herd in the exquisite setting of Silver Valley Ranch, just North West of Calgary. What has been most critical in this journey are the insights into my own behaviour and leadership style, as well as the personal transformation that has resulted from working with these graceful, powerful and sentient beings.
Linda Kohanov, a world-renowned equine facilitated leadership coach, sums up some of these leadership concepts beautifully in her book, Way of the Horse. Below I have quoted just a few of the concepts of leadership that she describes, and which have become apparent to me through my equine facilitated coaching work:

Silent Leadership
“In light and in shadow, the wise gray mare watches over her herd with a calm mind and an open heart…
From the barn to the boardroom, flamboyant alpha-style leaders are promoted as a force of nature. But imagining an alternative may be easier than you think. Just put yourself in the horse’s place. Which herd mare would you choose to follow: the one who chases you away from the hay pile, or the one who leads you to the water and lets you drink?
The most effective leader relinquishes the ambition to master others in favour of mastering herself.”

Consensual Leadership
“Running across the open plain, a dark horse is captivated by sunlight shining through an apparition in the clouds. Pausing briefly, he gathers confidence in his unique talent and wisdom, preparing to accept a leadership role when he rejoins the herd…
When we trade leadership roles according to who’s calmest, clearest, and most creative in a given situation, the entire community benefits.
Consensual leadership is not a job description, it’s an improvisation. To be confident in our own dreams and talents while remaining responsive to the needs and gifts of others, you must check your ego at the gate.”

Authentic Power
“In the prime of his life, a sleek bay stallion holds, in absolute stillness, the potential of all movement…
Body, mind, and spirit join forces to channel tremendous power.
True power encompasses more than physical fitness. Whether you’re riding a horse, developing a new idea, or guiding a company, you must learn to tap potential without taxing it.”

learning from horses

Dominance
“Ears pinned and mouth open, a finely trained horse struggles with his rider’s expectations. A loosening of the reins now and then helps both members of this team reach a long-overdue compromise…
When you’re in a position of power, learning to use our talents to benefit both self and community becomes one of life’s grand adventures.
The challenge: To become addicted to control is a common adolescent blunder and the ultimate potential downfall of all great leaders.”

Intuition
” horse of a different colour emerges from the mist, bringing wisdom from a mysterious source…
Intuition not only connects us to a deeper, more soulful consciousness, it reminds us that the universe is a latticework of relationships.
In accepting the gift of expanded awareness, you must monitor your shadow and remember that you’re human. When the ego takes credit for extrasensory perception, it becomes inflated – and dangerous.”
In the most compassionate (and yet sometimes frighteningly shocking way!) the horse mirrors aspects of ourselves that we may not have seen before, or chosen not to own. Somehow, learning from a thousand pound teacher can be far more effective than traditional methods of learning or coaching!

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Joanna Barclay, Speaker, Author, Leadership Consultant building high performing values-driven organizational culture.

With 30 years in business transformation working with organizations, Joanna’s passion lies in working with leaders, facilitating active participation in organizational change, developing resourceful teams and aligning strategic objectives. Her goal is to help organizations become high performing and values-driven, where people take ownership, build commitment and bridge communication gaps. As CEO of the Culture Leadership Group, she ensures successful transformation from concept through to implementation.

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