The following is an excerpt (of sorts) from my latest book “Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue” the book continues to document the learning I have gained through interactions with horses and people, connecting the power of horsemanship to leadership learning . Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue expands on earlier works: The Games People Play with Horses; Creating Exceptional Leaders through Learning with Horses; and In Business to Define. 

An Invitation can be accepted, modified or declined. 

Leadership is an invitation. It is an invitation to step up, take a risk, and step outside your comfort zone. 

My mentor, Fred Jacques introduced me to the “Invitation.” Through eight years working with Fred I had the opportunity to see excellent leadership facilitation in action. Fred’s observations are always spot on, he is gracious, funny and could brilliantly articulate the connections between humans and horses to leadership in the workplace. I can’t begin to express how much I learned watching, listening to and asking questions of Fred. 

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The Natural Leader participates in The Calgary Stampede

An invitation can be accepted, modified or declined, the perfect way to introduce a program with horses. The activities and interactions must be an invitation to participate. For some working with a horse will be way out of their comfort zone, so when I make the invitation I also have to be prepared for them to decline. Out of the thousands of individuals who I have had the privilege of hosting in the arena, only once has someone flatly refused to take the lead rope. With a fair bit of encouragement from myself and her team she agreed to sit on the bleachers at the end of the arena. We gave her a job, she was to pay attention to changes in people and horses and share what she observed. To ensure she could hear the conversation, questions and learnings we debriefed each activity beside the bleachers. While she didn’t take the lead rope, she modified the invitation and did participate. For that I am glad. 

I have met many who are fearful and know I can’t say, don’t be afraid, and expect that to hold any meaning. I personally experienced what fear of horses felt like when a concussion left a blank about what had happened. I had to learn to overcome the what if of that blank to participate in the what is of what was showing up. That accident gave me a window into what people may be experiencing when they say they are fearful. I explore part of that experience in my 2016 TEDxYYC Talk.

How I support someone through the invitation is important, as an individual’s greatest learning can happen on the edge of their comfort zone. However, what is even more important than negating someone’s fear is I can’t become someone’s bubble wrap! Most of the time I simple need to support them until they have enough information and are ready to take those initial steps, no matter how tentative.

Guiding someone on that edge I have used numerous questions and horsemanship tactics. There is a section in “Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue” called Coachable Momentswhere I have captured numerous questions, pairing them with personal experiences and horsemanship examples with a view to creating one-on-one activities within the context of a larger program.

The Coachable Moments customize each conversation and experience. As a coach I have learned to be efficient and more effective, as a facilitator I need to be equitable in how I divide my time. 

One of the greatest challenges with group leadership work is the limited amount of time you have with each individual.

• Wisdom that Fred offered early on, you can’t let one person monopolize your time and you cannot ignore another. Finding a balance is a constant struggle—it can be exhilarating and exhausting. 

• Having competent and confident help is critical to the success of your business. In The Natural Leader programs we have Wranglers with a Difference. Along with the logistics of handling the horses, I rely on them to to support, coach, and challenge participants in the arena. 

Invitation is truly the right word to use in a leadership program with horses. Each invitation, each interaction, is an opportunity. Whether that “Invitation” is accepted, modified or declined, comes down to how you manage each and every conversation you have within the limited time of that program.


Contact Nancy Lowery at or 403.669.3666 to learn more about Leadership is NOT a Wardrobe Issue or to schedule an interview. More information about Nancy and The Natural Leader can be found at . 

Nancy draws on personal experiences starting horses as the foundation for the programs she offers. Like horsemanship, you can grasp the concepts and theories of leadership, but both rely on the understanding gained through actually doing the work. Combining horses, a design degree and fifteen years managing marketing and communication programs for a national and international clientele, has given Nancy a foundation of meaningful parallels to the workplace. Previous works include the two-volume series The Games People Play with Horses; Creating Exceptional Leaders Through Learning with Horses and In Business to define – marketing your equine business. Nancy has presented at numerous conferences, 

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