Commentary 2

Lessons from a Leader

.... Lorraine Godwin, Regional Business Director, North America, GEOSOFT INC.   

I learned a lot about leadership from Cody. Under his watchful eyes, I learned the importance of how a confident, empathetic leader with a clear vision, can motivate people through mutual trust and respect.

When Cody followed me around the stable without any ropes tying him to me, it was one of those profound moments in my life. Oh, wait....did I mention that Cody is a horse?

The Polaris Program took us to the Horse Sense Leadership Centre where we learned about leadership through working with horses. The exercise highlighted key aspects which are important in the various leadership roles we fulfill in our lives, whether as managers, mentors, coaches, or parents.

Confidence

Because horses are prey animals, they live in herds for survival and rely on their leader in moments of danger for guidance. When I first approached Cody, he needed to establish if I was a leader.

I was nervous and anxious to prove myself to him, and was quick to make a lot of mistakes. First, I neglected to acknowledge that since a horse has eyes on the side of their head, their natural blind spot is directly in front of them. Imagine Cody's reaction when I approached him from the front, and then proceeded to pet him on his nose! Sensing my inexperience, Cody jostled me to his side where he could keep his watchful eye on me. By doing so, he was also testing my physical boundaries.  With a firm, raised hand, I was quickly able to establish my personal space which demonstrated to Cody that I was a confident leader. He respectfully acknowledged this by standing quietly by my side.

Empathy

The next test was to establish the kind of leader I am. Would I lead by pulling him along, by enticing him through rewards, or by using threats or punishment? By observing Cody's body language in response to my own, I learned how an empathetic leader acknowledges individuals’ strengths, observing how they respond in different circumstances, and encourages them through personal motivation.

Trust and Respect

In short order, I was able to get Cody to follow me. However, the ropes were still on, and I had no way of knowing if he was following me of his own volition.

So, the ropes came off and the true test of my leadership began. I exhaled slowly, looked towards our destination, and confidently set off towards it. The profound moment came when I felt Cody's nose nuzzling my shoulder as he followed me around the stable. The bond that we shared came through our mutual trust and respect in one another, and his confidence that I would get him to our destination safely and successfully.

Truly a memorable and moving experience.

Cody taught me a lot that day. The exercise highlighted important aspects of leadership, helped me understand the kind of leader I want to be, and at the end of the day, taught me some good, old-fashioned horse sense.

Well, that’s the way I see it anyway!