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Developing a Leadership Feel

Published: 6/29/2012
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Editor's Note:
Nancy Lowery runs The Natural Leader. It integrates horse work into leadership and team transformation programs.

Here is the final article in a three-part series.
Click for Part One
Click for Part Two

By Nancy Lowery
The Polynesian mariner navigates the ocean by the clouds, the stars, and the sound of water on the hull of the boat.
A horseman pays attention to the ears and body of the horse to know what to offer next.
And a CEO assesses the business environment to gain information on how to lead an organization.
The mariner and horseman have developed a keen awareness for their surroundings, basing their next move on feel and experience. If only the signals were as clear for the organizational leader!
In “Thoughts on Leadership Today” Dr. Laurie Maslak suggests “the Executive and Managers know all the right things to do. They have all been through extensive leadership development programs, but there’s little buy-in (to do the right things in practice).”
  There does not appear to be a lack of good leaders - just a lot of good leaders doing bad things. It does not appear to be a lack of good leaders, just a lot of good leaders doing bad things. Many offer a multitude of reasons for this: a persistent level of increased stress and growing workloads; working managers who don’t have anyone to delegate work to or continue to believe they can just do it faster; the economic and competitive market pressures; (and finally) the common complaint “there is no time to lead properly”
When people are overwhelmed a natural default is to focus on task versus strategy, a concept that New York Times columnist, David Brooks explored in his recent TedTalk. Brook offers that we have become very good at living by things we can measure such as tactics, skill and safety and not so great at talking about character, emotions and values.
We are social animals so we reflect what is going on inside and outside of us but we can only manage what we recognize. He goes further to suggest that good decisions are emotionally based and that wisdom is a reflection of the unconscious mind and our ability to be sensitive, sympathetic and empathetic.
Just as Maslak observed, Brooks believes we must get better at talking about what matters to us. We should feel as comfortable talking about love, passion and what inspires us as we do about spreadsheets, resources and markets. We look to those we admire for guidance because leadership “is a practice that requires vigilance, persistence and a constant awareness of self, others, and the environment.
Like the horseman who spends years observing and working with horses to recognize how their body language impacts their behavior, leadership requires that we take a step back and contemplate on our own actions.
Leadership development is both an internal and an external process. Like the mariner who listens to the water to recognize wave patterns or the horseman who spends years observing and working with horses to recognize how their body language impacts a horses’ behavior, leadership requires that we take a step back and contemplate on our own actions. “Leadership, in it’s truest sense of the word, is both an internal and an external experience.” The rational part of our being has us taking courses, reading books and listening to experts, yet the imprecise art of leadership comes from within.
Just as the mariner was seeking safe passage for others, the horseman transforming a colt into a dependable riding horse. A leader must be aware of their emotional input and output in order for others to aspire to be their best.

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6/29/2012 Kathleen Hagerty
WOW! I love this article...

   
"No one can teach riding so well as a horse" - CS Lewis