A few weeks ago I experienced being coached on my leadership capacity with the powerful assistance of a horse. My coach and guide for the day, Amanda Madorno, invited me to her farm to experience her equine facilitated coaching. Amanda began by asking me to choose which horse to work with. I could have chosen the noble, 30 year old (100+ years in human age) gelding, in whom I sensed a kindred spirit. But I chose Bella, a spirited, red headed mare. Or perhaps she chose me. I found her more intimidating—so I knew she would be my teacher.
My first task, much to my anxious surprise, was to put a bridle on the mare. Despite my protests of being a city girl and never having done this before, Amanda gently and confidently coached me through the process. Bella was feasting on lots of tasty grass, a far more enticing activity than me approaching her with a bridle. There was no way I could force this horse, much larger than me, to do anything! I discovered she responded to me when I connected and engaged with her. “Connect and engage, connect and engage,” became my mantra. That’s what helped me get the bridle on her.
Then there was the obstacle course! I had a number of increasingly challenging activities to lead Bella through: walking over barriers, walking over a small bridge, walking in particular patterns. I took a deep breath—I had my work cut out for me.
The truth is I have had very little experience with horses. In theory I love horses as I love all animals. However, in a corral with the horses, I felt a little afraid. Their size intimidates me. Despite all of this, the anxiousness I felt at first melted away once I connected with Bella. We proceeded through the obstacle course with relative ease.
This experience with Bella offered me a rich opportunity for reflection on the qualities of leadership presence. Presence communicates leadership. Leadership is not only about knowing in the technical sense (I know close to nothing about horses); leadership is also about being fully present in the moment and in connected partnership with others.
Here are ten reminders about leadership presence from my work with Bella:
- Connect with graciousness, curiosity and respect and meet others where they are.
- Check in graciously and frequently with your partners, allies, and stakeholders.
- Be curious, inviting, and inclusive with your presence.
- Step easily and with care.
- Remember to breathe deeply.
- Notice nonverbal cues: the tilt of a head, the exhale of a breath, posture, body language.
- Move with intention, clarity and focus towards your vision.
- Include your partners: inclusion creates safety, belonging and coordinated action.
- Set others up for success.
- Accept that sometimes we lead without knowing and we experiment and course correct as necessary.
Leadership and Horse Sense introduces you to the silent power of nonverbal communication. This enlightening session with Catherine Bachy, Amanda Madorno and the Epona Meadows herd shows how leadership effectiveness is tightly linked to your use and knowledge of body language and physical presence whether you know it or not. You will learn how to accurately de-code the silent signals of others and use body language that is aligned with your verbal messages to increase your leadership credibility.
I will be offering aikido inspired somatic coaching on the non verbal dimensions of leadership presence. We look forward to combining somatic awareness through foundational principles of aikido (Catherine) with the experience of equine facilitated coaching (Amanda). Come play, learn, and be amazed by this unique partnership!