In the last two weeks we have discussed about principles that apply both in horsemanship and in leadership, they are: relationship, communication and leadership. Today we will focus on leadership and for that we will continue our interview with Michael Alway from Alway Horsemanship.
Question – Michael: there is always a leader in the herd; can you talk about it from what you have observed in horses’ behavior?
Answer – “There is always a leader! Without it, there would be no survival. Naturally, the Alfa mare in a herd is the leader. Most people think that it is the stallion. The mare decides where they go, when they go, where they eat, where they drink etc. The stallion’s sole responsibility is protection and fight or flight. If there is danger, then the stallion takes over. Horses need this leadership to function. Many times, in our horse/human relationships, the human doesn’t take the leadership, this often causes anxiety and stress for the horse. They need a confident, fair leader! They will often test the leader just to be certain that he is still in charge and is going to take control if a situation arises!”
It is interesting to see so many similitudes with human behavior, it also causes anxiety and stress for humans when people don’t take the leadership.
When it comes to leadership, the main question is: Are leaders born? John Maxwell is asked this question often in leadership conferences. His answer is: “Although it is true that some people are born with greater natural gifts, the ability to lead is really a collection of skills, nearly all of which can be learned and improved.”
Talent is a gift, skills are developed. Therefore, leadership skills can be learned and developed. First, we need to understand that Leadership is not title, position, power or status; as stated by John: “leadership is influence, nothing more, nothing less. The true measure of leadership is influence”.
There are many misconceptions about leadership, people think – if I just have a title or position, others will follow me…Stanley Huffty said: “It’s not the position that makes the leader, it’s the leader that makes the position”.
You may be asking yourself: so how can I influence others if I am not in a position of leadership? Well, you can do that by “intentionally adding value to others”, seek for opportunities to do it, you will see how people will appreciate you and you will be a positive influence for them.
Also, you want to start to prepare for the time when you are put in a leadership position. As basketball Coach John Wooden said: “when opportunity comes is too late to prepare”.
Question – Michael: horses are followers; do they follow if they see a leader in you?
Answer – “Yes, they follow a leader that has rapport and respect. One that provides them with their needs… safety, comfort, play, and food. Often, the main thing that needs to happen is for the human to prove that they have the leadership skills.”
Question – and how do you gain their respect?
Answer – “You earn their respect by being a good leader!”
I would agree that the most important ingredient a leader must have to show leadership character is respect for others. Respect comes when we place value on other people. As Ari Kiev writes, “Everyone wants to feel that he/she counts for something and is important to someone. People will give their love, respect, and attention to the person who fills that need.”
Adding value to others is probably the greatest source of respect. Let’s close with one of John’s favorite definitions of success: “success is having the respect of those closest to you”.
In the upcoming workshop “Horsemanship and Leadership – making the connection” we will discover leadership lessons found in the art of horsemanship. With demonstrations and practical exercises with real horses, we will help you become a better leader in any area of life. You will also be able to see firsthand the power of praise and effective communication through body language and feel between man and horse.