leadership lessons from horses

Weekend Woes Turned In a Lesson in Leadership

We were scheduled to take the horses, Cranberry and Faust, out for the weekend to get fitted for new saddles. Saddles that will fit them better and simply make it more enjoyable for them when they are ridden.

So these plans for the weekend were very exciting. The weather was amazing and all the stars seemed aligned. 

Except for one thing…the horses were having nothing to do with it.

We Cannot *Make* Someone Do Something

No matter what we tried, no matter how long we spent with them, no matter how we asked, they would not get into the trailer.  

Horses are well known for their ability to teach leadership. Working with a horse provides an incredible metaphor for leadership. It’s about learning to lead through partnership, relationship, trust and communication – it has very little to do with the words you speak and a lot more to do with the space and relationship you create. 

Horses and the Leadership Lessons They Teach

I learned (or re-learned) a familiar lesson this weekend, you cannot make a horse do anything. We have two beautiful creatures who have come to be part of our family but this weekend they were a combined 2500 pounds of, “Nope. Ain’t gonna do that.”

It was super frustrating because we knew what was in store for them. We had this perfect vision of what a great experience we had planned for them. With an outcome that had their best interest at heart. But the thing is, they had another agenda. Their agenda was driven by fear and uncertainty. 

Trust Is Earned Over Time

We lost hours, and Saturday was gone. We tried again on Sunday. Even brought in our horse trainer. An expert we were certain would tackle this problem and convince the horses to trust us and let us guide them to a new experience that we were sure they would enjoy.

Except for one thing…the horses were having nothing to do with it.

Cranberry finally decided she would give it a try on Sunday but Faust made the choice to stay home. 

How Do Humans Decide Whom To Trust?

As humans, we are always at choice, even if it doesn’t feel like it. We make choices of ‘this’ not ‘that’, all day long. 

I’ll be honest, there were moments during these two days that I was tired, hungry, worn out and just plain wanted the dang horse to get in the dang trailer so we could make the dang appointment we made. I hate being late and making others wait. 

The more frustrated I got the less patience I had. And I’m quite certain they could tell! 

Are You Impatient with Change?

Where do you find yourself impatient with change? Are there times when you just want to tell your team to ‘get on with it’ or when someone asks why should I do it this way you feel like saying ‘because I said so and I can see so much potential here if you would just do what I tell you to do’. 

In organizations leaders can be lulled into thinking that they can make people do something by offering consequences to saying no – like firing someone or not offering them the next opportunity that comes. In reality if people don’t buy into what they are being asked to contribute to they might go through the motions to make you believe they are compliant but oftentimes the real conversation goes underground. They look like they are compliant but the real conversation becomes covert. 

Taking Action on Something You Believe In

All the convincing, cajoling or influencing in the world will not make someone take an action they don’t believe in. 

Faust was the same way this weekend. He wasn’t ready.  

This weekend became a lesson about leadership that I will hold onto. About trust. About what I bring to a situation. About accepting that I cannot change someone’s mind. That it’s not about me, but more about how I arrive as a leader, with horses or with humans. It speaks volumes about my notion that I can make someone do anything…just because I want them to and I’ve laid out this great outcome that everyone should want to be a part of it.

Building Trust Starts with Communication

Leadership is so many things and one of the basics is How You Show Up. Building trust. Learning to communicate. Listening to the other. Getting clear about roles and responsibilities. Setting boundaries. Letting go of my agenda. Inviting others into a conversation. Listening. Seeking to understand the other. Seizing the opportunities from past experiences and learning from them. And as a Team Facilitator, how to honor the facilitation stance.

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Enhance Your Leadership Journey With TeamCatapult

If any of this resonates with you, we have many opportunities on the horizon for enhancing your leadership journey. Take a look at our upcoming workshops

Thanks to Faust and Cranberry, our whole family had a leadership lesson this weekend and I know I’m a better leader today because of it. 

What’s your journey stepping stone looking like?


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