Leadership Development – Can Horses Teach You About Leadership Development?

Leadership development is a term that includes many personal self development skills and professional skills that get lumped into the term leadership development.

Having been a leader all my life in many different venues I would have said that my leadership skills were good until I began working with my horses on a daily basis. Thus began my journey and my learning that leadership skills go deeper than surface skills and abilities.

A little history on how I got into this work – with more than twenty years in corporate America in leadership, management, consulting, and training, I was looking for a new stress-reducing hobby. I found horses or they found me and I was hooked.

So we began, my love for horses coupled with my entrepreneurial nature led me to quarter horse breeding and performance showing more than ten years ago. Working on a daily basis with mares that had babies by their sides and watching them grow from young horses into adulthood I began to learn my leadership skills in a whole new way.

Although I had many years of leadership experience and classroom education, the lessons from my interactions with my horses were coming faster and deeper than they ever had from the classroom. I found that I couldn’t get by with just saying the words of leadership without having my inside self and my outside self in alignment. My horses showed their confusion and inability to move forward on my commands.

Now the people that I managed were just as confused but people have been taught for years to put on a polite face and cover up what they are feeling inside. So instead of showing confusion they would go away and feel frustrated and unhappy. I am sure though they hid this from me. They may even have complained to their peers about not knowing what I wanted. Do you think the people you lead might be feeling some of these same emotions?

Just because the people we lead or manage do not show us these feelings doesn’t mean they aren’t feeling them. Horses on the other hand don’t have the polite filters in place so they show us exactly how they are feeling. They show us in an instant whether or not we are giving commands that are clear and understandable. They don’t need to hide what they are feeling to make sure they are staying on our good side. Frankly they don’t care.

Leadership took on a new meaning for me. With their ability to see through any incongruent behavior on my part my horses insisted that I learn my leadership abilities better and in a new deeper way if I wanted to accomplish my goals with them.

As an instructor in leadership development, executive and personal coaching, I began to see the possibilities for helping others grow and learn in this new, faster way: this new way of learning that sticks. I began holding workshops and coaching sessions to teach others these new lessons using my horses as a medium for learning.

The results of this learn-by-doing method, using simple exercises shared with a highly responsive, beautiful horse, is exceptional and lasting.

Leadership development skills learned with a horse as your partner are skills that immediately become an integral part of you and with this method you really become a leader.

Copyright (c) 2008 Jean Starling

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