Leslie Ungar, The Inner Brilliance of Electric Impulse, Inc.

You Can’t Lead a Horse

Leslie’s Articles

If You’re Not Clear Where You’re Going
6 Traits You Can Learn From a Horse

Here’s a secret:

A horse does not care what degrees you have, your title, or the bonus you receive at the end of the year. A horse is not impressed with your position, and will not cooperate with you because of the alphabet soup of letters after your name.

What does that mean for you?
Horse guided learning is a unique way for you to uncover and rediscover how to communicate your value in your company and in your marketplace.

Are you ready to learn something new in a new way?
Working with a horse, observing, from the ground, or in the stirrups, you can combine practical business experience with your newly gained horse knowledge. Seeing the world from the back of a horse will help you see yourself through someone else’s eyes. This someone else just happens to be a 1200-pound horse with big brown eyes, a soft nose, and a trusting soul.

As a Communication Coach, my job is to help client’s use communication to advance their agenda, and to protect their value. In order to do that, you have to use communication to create buy in.

You also have to create buy-in in order to move a horse forward, backward, or sideways. Working with a horse is a way for you to learn new lessons, a new way to get to an old destination: results. A place where you say and do the same things that you say and do everyday, but you learn them in a different way.

Have you ever tried to pick up a horse’s hoof? It takes one subtle, directed motion. You can waste energy on overkill, or just wrong kill, when one knowledgeable step is needed to be taken. Can you see a similarity on your team?

Can you imagine moving a horse to the left? Do you think you just pull the reins to your left? Horses move away from pressure not into pressure. So if you want to move to the left, you actually need small hand and leg movement from the right side of your body. Do you know which way your company moves?

What you can learn from a horse about being a successful 21st century leader:

1. The Value of Clarity

Horses respond to clarity. Clarity in mind and in action. Therefore horses create an especially valuable mirror for humans who are so good at saying one thing and thinking another. You may be able to fool yourself, but you can’t fool a horse. I once “drove” a horse (pulling a buggy) right into a wall. My hands kind of said go right, my gut kind of said go left, and therefore the horse went in the middle . . . into a wall. Clarity accelerates progress . . . in the right direction.

2. Understand You’re Part of a Herd

Each herd member has a role that’s clearly understood, whether it is leader, sentry, greeter or quiet observer. Especially in today’s market, it’s essential to work with people who are strong in places where you’re weak, form strategic partnerships, and for team members to know and accept their role.

3. Respond to Subtle Leadership

Sit in the saddle, close your leg on a horse and the horse will respond. Push your left leg into your mount, and he/she will move to the right. Jiggle your little finger as it is holding the reins, and your mount will respond. If a 1200 pound horse responds to subtly, what about a 150 pound person? A horse responds to subtlety and so will your team.

4. Leaders Conserve their Energy

Put a new group of horses together and at first there’ll be a lot of jockeying for position. But after everything settles down, a horse that appeared to be doing nothing emerges as a powerful leader. Leaders must learn to conserve energy, too. Trust your own timing, rest in your own knowing; move when it’s time.

5. What You Forget will be Repeated 

Cross a horse, hurt a horse, neglect a horse: they will always remember. So will your team members. They say people may forgive, but they don’t forget. Perhaps horses are more honest, they neither forget nor forgive.

6. Respond to People Just as They Are

Horses see the good in us. They’re understanding and generous. They care more about whether we care than what we know. Your team members are no different. They care less about the college you attended or your advanced degrees than they care about your intentions, your integrity, whether or not you are invisible. Visibility is huge to a horse and to the people in your company. Just ask a horse whose owner forgot to show up at feeding time.

You can’t lead a horse if you’re not clear where you’re going. You can’t lead yourself, a team, or a company either. The idealized cowboy may have become the epitome of independence, but the cowboy couldn’t do it alone. He and his horse were the quintessential team.

In a world where size and power is respected, it’s the little things that capture the heart and mind of a horse, and the heart and mind of your team. For horses, knowing what’s going on around them is basic to their survival. The same is true for 21st century leaders.