Horses are uniquely qualified to teach leadership skills. As prey animals their survival depends upon knowing who their leader is at all times. In terms of leadership development they are Subject Matter Experts. Horses recognize and respond to respect, integrity, aggression and bullying, just as humans do. Equine leadership is typically based on the same qualities or criteria that we humans would use to choose leaders such as courage, compassion, altruism, and authenticity.
Courage at work can be the ability to go beyond groupthink, to feel the fear and do it anyway, to lead outside the constraints of the organizational culture when necessary.
A compassionate leader can relate to the feelings of team members and is skilled at building relationships with others.
Altruism is that quality a leader has that ensures the good of the whole over selfish individual ends; a leader is able to think about the team before self while modelling self-care.
Authenticity is that ineffable sense that team members know who the leader is: there is no pretense. It is the felt sense of the ‘genuine’.
When relating to humans, horses communicate in the same manner as they do with each other. They test us subtly and overtly to assess our worthiness to be their leader. When we put ourselves in their presence and interact with them on the ground, horses masterfully illuminate how we are as leaders, followers, nurturers, decision-makers, teammates, friends and colleagues. Learning about one’s leadership style is a natural outcome of being and learning with horses.