What can the equine community learn from Fortune 500 leaders? A lot actually! Good leaders are good communicators, and good communicators can become great leaders.
I recently read an article by Gretchen Rosswurm about some common communication habits she’s noticed from successful leaders (from supervisors to CEOs) in the corporate world. I found it very interesting and have applied her words to the horse world.
- Share an inspiring vision of the future.
Gretchen states: “Leaders answer these questions: Where are we going, what does it look like, what are the benefits, what role do I play in the success? The differentiator is consistency.”
When working with a horse we need to have some vision of the future as well. Take for example a young horse learning to accept a rider. The vision is to ride the horse. The trainer will break down this goal into smaller more achievable steps for the horse. With consistency and answering the who, what, where, when, why questions over and over again the vision becomes a reality.
Gretchen states: “Real leadership requires listening. Leaders want to know what people think. They ask questions, create opportunities for dialogue. They make it OK for employees and stakeholders to share their candid opinions. They show compassion and humanity to make people feel heard. Listening with patience and attention will win respect.”
You need to listen to what your horse is telling you. Perhaps he’s not ready to compete at the national level and to push him beyond what he is capable could cause injury to horse and/or rider. If we do not listen to our horses, unwanted behavior arises and problems snowball.
- Commit to “no surprises.”
Gretchen states: “Leaders who are successful over the long haul are honest. They demonstrate in word and deed that they are transparent about changes or vision. These leaders earn the respect of their teams and often their loyalty.”
The “horse whisperers” out there are honest with the horses and the horses are honest with them, and in return the horses pledge their loyalty and will go the extra mile for their leader.
- Widen the circle of involvement.
Gretchen states: “Strong leaders start with a small group and, bit by bit, like water rippling in concentric circles, widen the circle of people who are aware of and involved in the vision. Leaders who continually engage and involve more people in the vision find that support grows organically and naturally. As you listen and engage with others, you will better understand the barriers and accelerators of success.”
You can look at this one several different ways. Horse and rider working together and pretty soon their communication system has drawn a crowd. Trainer and client working together to empower each other and the horse that brought them together. A horse business owner expanding his/her business.
- Match your message with your audience.
Gretchen states: “Not everyone is motivated the same way. Some embrace data; others rely on feelings and intuition. Some like visuals; some want to be told. A good leader uses all of these to create a message that resonates with more people. It shows respect for learning styles and diversity.”
Each horse is an individual. Each human is an individual. It is our job to understand how the individual learns. When we do this, we can help the individual excel and the partnership is an easier road to travel to the end goal.
Gretchen’s summary comment is: “In the end, there’s no magic formula for great communications. But I’ve seen time and again that the leaders who communicate using these methods are more effective than those who don’t. And I’ve seen very effective communicators become great leaders.”
There is no one size fits all formula when it comes to working with horses. By gathering as many tools as you can for your toolbox you are better prepared for anything that comes your way. Horses can often be unpredictable at times, but they can become predictable by keeping your channels of communication open and consistent.