Making the connection

Increasingly the best of breed lead not by virtue of power alone, but by excelling in the art of relationship, the singular expertise that the changing business climate renders indispensable. Leadership excellence is being redefined in interpersonal terms. (From ‘Primal Leadership – Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence’, Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee)

David, a delegate on a LeadChange workshop, started the day saying ‘I don’t see what horses can teach me about leadership in the workplace’. However, he was open to the possibility, and willing to engage in the learning process.

When it came to his 1:1 coaching experience with a horse, David said that he wanted to improve his relationship with the people in his team – he felt that he did not connect with them. He was invited to ‘connect’ with a horse at liberty (i.e. without head-collar or lead-rope) as a metaphor for connecting with his team of work colleagues.

David approached the horse and started to stroke it. After a few minutes, I asked him to rate the level of connection he felt with the horse, on a scale of 0-10, where 10 was ‘perfectly connected’. His reply, which was readily endorsed by other delegates observing him, was that there was ‘zero connection’.

I invited Dave to step away from the horse, and asked him about the people in his life with whom he felt connected – and how he knew that he connected with them. He talked about the connection he had with his wife and children, and after a few moments’ thought, indicated that he felt that connection in his body (rather than in his head) – in the area of his chest (heart).

With that sense of connectedness, he approached the horse again. It was immediately obvious that a connection now existed – the horse turned towards David, and as he started to walk, the horse followed him freely around the arena.

David’s learning from horses about leadership in the workplace was that connection with a team is a matter of ‘heart’ as well as ‘head’. His experience with a horse made him aware, both of what he needed to change, and how to change it. The horse’s response was powerful evidence of David’s ability to make that change. His new awareness enabled him to make the same choice in the workplace, and really connect with his team.

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