Horses are flight animals. Humans are predators. So what could horses possibly teach those of us who may be plagued by a lack of confidence? I’m talking specifically about the lack of confidence amongst some women in taking on a new leadership challenge.
I am neither a psychologist nor a horse whisperer. But I love my horses. And over the course of a lifetime hanging out with them, I have learned some valuable lessons. They have been my teachers.
Today I would like to share with you, some of the learnings I have gleaned from their equine world.
“You don’t need to be a horse whisperer to learn from horses.”
”Women need to be authentic in the way they lead and there is no need to copy or imitate someone else’s or a more masculine leadership style.”
One of the pillars of good leadership is trust. Its not something that comes with the job title or position. Rather, trust is something that has to be earned. It is that essential ingredient which creates a bond between leaders and their followers.
Similarly, in the world of the horse, trust must be earned. And what my horses have taught me is that if I can earn their trust, they will also follow me. What is fascinating is that the qualities which underpin leadership in both the world of the horse and the world of the human ALSO carry across the inter-species divide, enabling horses to recognise certain humans, as their leaders.
However, in order to achieve this level of inter-species leadership, humans – like me and you – must be clear, consistent and most importantly – authentic. We must be true to ourselves, and act in accordance with our true values, motives and ideals. There is no faking it. We cannot lie to a horse. Our body language, our intent and our actions must be congruent.
Uncertainty, lack of confidence, discordant or inappropriate body language, or the transmission of conflicting, non-authentic messages will literally stop a horse in its tracks. A horse receiving such messages will simply refuse to follow you or to be led.
Some humans will, under certain circumstances, follow a domineering or bullying ‘leader’ even if they don’t trust that person. They might also follow a weak ‘leader’ they do not respect. But such leadership will never be effective. Horses on the other hand will simply refuse to follow such ‘leaders’. It is not the way their brains work.
Because horses have an underdeveloped frontal cortex (Grandin & Johnson, 2005), they are incapable of separating their feelings from their behaviour. They are hypersensitive to intentions and body language. And they do not dissemble. The feedback you get from a horse will be instant and accurate.
Corporates who implement equine-assisted learning programs for their executives report significantly more effective leadership results in the wake of such programs. The horses are in fact holding the executives to account. They will only cooperate in cases where true leadership is demonstrated. Where they believe the leader is looking after their interests.
This is the lesson I have learnt from my horses and that I would like to impart to you. That we need to be true and authentic and there is no need to copy or imitate someone else’s or a more masculine leadership style. That our messages must be congruent and that – in our pursuit of corporate financial success – we need also to look after the interests of those we lead.
This is the underpinning of genuine and productive leadership. Integrity, as whispered by the horse.
The Author – Jacqueline Lehmann Vogel
Jacqueline is the founder of Women in Leadership International – www.womenleadersint.com – an executive search and recruitment company based in Melbourne. She enjoys working with CEOs and company leaders who want to make a serious effort and drive change in the way they attract more women to their executive team – with the ultimate objective to create a more diverse and more successful leadership team.
Her profile and career have been shaped by her passion to make individuals and businesses more successful through the development of strong leadership.
Jacqueline has been on a mission to motivate women to take their career to the next level, supporting them in creating their unique career development strategies and plans, working with them in their pursuits to move into senior leadership positions.
Jacqueline has been a horse enthusiast all through her life. In her spare time she enjoys country life in Victoria and spending time with her horses, taking them for rides and for bushwalks in the beautiful Macedon Ranges .
Jacqueline Lehmann Vogel
+61 (0) 418 613930