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Fear is a lazy bastard

rhys_fear“Fear is a lazy bastard. It comes from the most primitive part of the brain. It takes no work and no intelligence.” John Hope Bryant, Love Leadership

Fear is an emotion that can hold us, limit us or drive us. Fear is one of the six basic emotions we share with animals. When it comes to leading people fear may deliver short term results but it comes at great cost. In contrast the other five emotions sadness, anger, happiness, surprise and love utilize the part of the brain that thinks, finds meaning and remembers. Qualities found in passionate and caring leaders who truly want to connect with people and develop relationships in order to serve others. John Hope Bryant calls these individuals Love Leaders.

In my quest to grow The Natural Leader business I have had the great privilege of meeting a few of these Love Leaders. Each has touched my life in a different way each demonstrated a quality I needed to learn. Sometimes it was a learning realized simply through my own fear of failing.

Barbara Ross, sister, friend and avid supporter. Barb is devoted to so many others, she has volunteered as a board member, fund raiser and for the past three months as full time Executive Director of Inn from the Cold to bring them through a critical transition period.
Fred Jacques, my mentor and partner through the programs we have delivered together. His knowledge, experience and willingness to share is inspiring.
Barbara Thrasher, believed in what we had to offer from her first introduction to the programs. She has continued to promote, support and encourage me – reminding without words on the importance of patience.
Kathy Pinder, Director of the Famous 5 I had the honour to work with Kathy on the 80th Anniversary of the ‘Persons Case’, her energy, enthusiasm and commitment is unwaivering.
Francis Wright, founder of the Famous 5 lives the importance of the role of women in developing a world worth living in.
Barbara Dodd-Jones for her participation and her willing endorsement in support of Equine instinct to better human Emotional Intelligence.
Suzanne Fitzhenry, Suzanne has been incredible in her ability to promote the University of
Calgary programs continually creating wait lists.
Donna Kennedy-Glans, has inspired me. Leadership in one of Canada’s largest oil companies taught her about the importance of self, family and belief. She continues to unveil opportunities for others through CanadaBridges.com
Jan Hornford, an aspiring equestrian with a positive energy and caring grace. Jan has a passion for people, her encouragement was the source of doing things differently this past year.
Christopher Byron, my husband, partner and best friend he both encourages and challenges me.

Each of these individuals helped me see that in failure lies great opportunity. It is simply about the choices we make. “Never say can’t and never say impossible. The difficult you do immediately, the impossible takes a little longer.”1 Love leadership is about caring more about what others think, need and want than you think about yourself.

I always connect my leadership learnings to what my horses have taught me – this topic is no different. Animals are great teachers of unconditional love they accept us for who were are based on how we treat them. Horses can be absolute grace under pressure – so willing to forgive.

Rhys and I have had our journey this past year. It was only when I was ready to commit and banish my fear of failure Rhys was there waiting to follow my lead. It is a path I am willing to take in my business and my life. Failure like falling is something you do but you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on. Loving what you are doing makes it that much easier.

Thanks to all of you I haven’t mentioned those who encouraged, participated and provided critical feedback and continue to influence my life. A great 2010 to all.

1- I am honoured to give credit where it is due – John Hope Byrant is the author of Love LeadershipFanatics Authentic Joe Namath Alabama Crimson Tide Autographed 16 x 20 Crimson Uniform with Ball Pho
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It’s Your Behaviour

“Titles are granted, but it’s your behaviour that wins you respect.” Opening words to the first practice of The Leadership Challenge.

Model the Way; Inspire a Shared Vision; Challenge the Process; Enable Others to Act and Encourage the Heart are the Five Practices of The Leadership Challenge and have proven to be a great reference for The Natural Leader programs. This past weekend in High River Alberta, Buck Brannaman capably demonstrated that the five practices of leadership apply equally well to to the pursuit of horsemanship.

“to gain commitment you must be a model of the behaviour you expect of others.” Model the Way is about demonstrating behaviour, it is about being clear on what is important to you and prepared to set the example. Clear on his commitment Brannaman’s presence demonstrates he is prepared to help others in their horsemanship journey.

The words and topics he uses are not often heard in the boardroom, but the concepts couldn’t be closer. Brannaman talks about having a picture in your minds eye of what you want to do before you start. “Do less than what you think it’s going to take and then do what it takes to get the job done.” Through stories of his own struggles, his admiration for his mentor Ray Hunt and humorous interpretations of his teachings Brannaman created and Inspired a Shared Vision.

His word’s don’t simply inspire, but they Challenge the Process engaging people into action. By sharing and demonstrating activities where a person learns from their failure, or as Brannaman puts it “an opportunity to get better” he sets it up for the horse human relationship to improve. The goal of attending the clinic was to improve to horsemanship skills, but as his website claims “horses and life it’s all the same to me.” Brannaman creates possibility, he Enables Others to Act limited only by the level of commitment each is prepared to make. The art of horsemanship is to make the horse look better.

Through his skill Brannaman is able to foster collaboration and build trust, so others believe they too can achieve something they previously thought unattainable, he Encourages the Heart.

Working through the challenge of making my horses look better has taught me, horsemanship and leadership ….. it is all about my behaviour.

The image at the start of the article is a Garcia Spade Bit, an example of the finest in silver, copper and steel craftmanship. While bits always raise controversy in the horse world, it is rarely the bit and always how humans use them. To Brannaman the spade represents the ultimate in trust and communication based on respectful relationship. As his mentor Ray Hunt said “Anyone can ride a horse bridle-less but only those with the highest level of commitment can ride a horse with a spade bit.”

“Should you choose to keep him and work through your difficulties, you are embarking upon an incredible journey. It will not be short, cheap, or painless. It takes a lot of “try.” You have to make a commitment. You’ll have to pay for your education, one way or another. And there WILL be bumps along the road. But there will also be rewards. Most of them will be of intrinsic value that only you and your horse will know.”
Buster McLaury

The Gender Parity

sydneyKnown for the Stampede and Spruce Meadows, Calgary is a hub for international competitors and horses. At these levels of competition one can’t help but notice the number of mares represented in the final round of cattle work, that famous eight second ride or the jump- off. It is a gender parity that puts the business community to shame.

While women may be present in a higher proportion in both the workplace and the stables, there continues to be a higher representation of males in senior management and geldings in the barns. I broached this observation on an equine related discussion board and the thread quickly drifted to typical gender stereotypes, hormones, personality preferences and dominant versus passive behaviour. Similar reasons as to why mares are relegated to brood herds and women left out of the board room.

As with all my articles I seem to waller1 around for a while before I decide what it is I really want to say. Sydney helped me gain some clarity this morning. The most confident horse I have ever owned, she has never questioned her own ability. Many people who have had the opportunity to work with her have remarked “that scanning the herd she hadn’t caught their eye, but her personality is one you cannot ignore.” What I am fairly confident about is in other hands she would be labeled a difficult horse.

Just as men and women view the same problem from different angles, a mares perspective on us differs from that of a gelding. Horse clinician Julie Goodnight suggests that “working with mares requires that we develop a meaningful relationship in order for them to bond with us as they would a herd mate.”

It is coming to understand this different perspective that has helped me grow in my horsemanship skills. A mare asks more of us as a leader and it is this questioning style that often puts people at odds with mares. The mindset of many horse owners is they should just do as I ask but, as we have seen time and again in our sessions, what we think we are asking and what the horse reads are often two completely different requests.

Thinking about how mares have been stereotyped what surprises me is how often I have heard from a women “they would never ride a mare.” A participant of a recent session couldn’t have framed it better when reflecting on his experience with lead mare Zoe “she was clearly allowing me to lead her”. He held no illusion that he was the leader simply because he held the lead rope. With both mares and geldings in our herd I have learned a lot about group dynamics. Every horse has learned behaviours but each has their own unique personality and background. It is the differences in the gender dynamics in the playground, the workplace and the stables that maintains a dynamic, growing and caring environment.

To update that cowboy saying on mares I would prefer to suggest “you need to engage in dialogue with a mare.” as too often a discussion ends up being one sided. Being open to a dialogue with Sydney or any of the other mares in the herd has allowed me to see what each excels at. Dialogue requires that we not only express our opinion but we that listen to other perspectives. When you find that area of common interest a mare’s loyalty is unquestionable they will truly put their heart and soul into getting you to the final round.

1-Waller – in this context is in reference to the aimless and sometimes purposeless requests we make of our horses, to the point they simply shut us out.

Learning from the Herd

At first glance, the herd is a fairly static environment with roles, responsibilities and daily schedules. A horse is a highly social animal which means a range of interactions but the herd is both constant and ever changing reflecting a routine set by the seasons, the weather and us.

Our herd is a mix of geldings, mares and one donkey ranging in age from two to sixteen. Observing them over the years highlights the similarities and the subtle changes that emerge as the number of horses has grown. In Animals Make Us Human, Temple Grandin suggests it is the horse’s very social nature that has made them so easy for us to domesticate – they don’t mind when territories cross, they are willing to live together in a created herd and they have a built in desire to cooperate.

A domestic herd is limited by the space they have to share, don’t have much of a choice as to who joins them and within limits they get along pretty well. With those parameters it is relatively easy to pull parallels from the herd to the workplace. To work well in a team we often need to be able to manage an open office environment, work with individuals we might not choose to spend time with and cooperation is not always the hallmark of being human.

Like a workplace team, the herd also has to deal with internal and external influences. Internal change is far more fluid than the stresses that we inflict on them but what is interesting and most reflective of workplace is how the herd collectively manages external stress.

From time to time change is imposed on the herd whether it’s adjusting the clock, adding a new member or splitting the herd up a change can be fiercely defended. Generally horses are not great at managing change and they treat change with the commitment of a life and death scenario. The herd quickly becomes a cohesive unit acting and responding in the interest of the group, old alliances are strengthened and new bonds are created, working together to either accept or repel the influence.

Change seems to be a constant that we cannot repel or ignore, but what we can do is manage how it impacts us personally. While we often feel alone in the turmoil of change supporting others through the process is another innate human characteristic. The herd demonstrates the importance of sticking together and supporting others while being open and willing to accept and adapt to what shows up.