Want to become a better leader….learn from a horse

I thought you would enjoy this thought provoking article by Philippe Collard, President of Le Link, that I came across on Linkedin.

Certain things can be taught. Other things can only be learned. Such is “leadership” or the behavioral skills that we associate with leadership. As much as some “gurus” would have you believe, they are simply incapable to “teach” you leadership because it is something that can only be integrated in our own self through personal experiences, both positive and negative.

Thus you will read a lot of articles discussing what leaders are, what they are not, what they do and what they do not do. All these “gurus” can offer is something like “do this, be that way, do not do this and do not be that way”. It is an utterly pointless and usually very expensive curriculum.

horse bodyworkI once took the executive team of one of the companies I was turning around to a “leadership seminar” (I did not know better then). A very charismatic speaker discussed with great oratory skills about the “new leaders”. It lasted a couple of hours. We left with a huge binder full of “wisdom”, binders that collected dust in the office of those who had gotten them. A couple of weeks later, I went back to my team and asked: “What do you remember from that day and what have you applied in your daily life?” It was not a trick question because I had asked myself the question first and had found little for an answer. I wanted to find out if I was the “idiot” in the room. Nope. Nobody in the executive team was able to pinpoint some nugget of wisdom that they had not only taken away, but remembered and applied. I had just wasted a great deal of money.

Later on, I discovered horses, riding and the tremendous amount of introspection that is required to be on a horse’s back asking that animal to do as you please, most often things that are completely unnatural to the horse. I slowly realize that the equestrian sport was teaching me a great deal more than just riding. I was learning about myself, my own tendencies, those that were conducive to harmonious riding and those that were absolutely destructive.

One day it dawned on me. Riding was changing me. And I was carrying those changes with me wherever I went. At home. At work. I was able to recognize my faulty behaviors much quicker and was “trained”, so to speak, to correct them because of my riding. I thus came up with the idea of building a “program” (if you want to call it that) to allow people like me at the time (high-strung executives) to find their own self and learn a thing or two through interaction with horses. I called this program: EquiLead (www.equilead.ca).

It took me many years to articulate and structure the program. This is not an easy thing to do and I am not a teacher, though this is not about teaching, as I will emphasize later on. But eventually I did build the program and got people to go through it….entire article