The Alpha Mare Blog


Books vs Horses

I have a wall of books about leadership in my office. There are thousands of such books out there to choose from. Experts have been writing books about leadership for centuries. One of the first was written as early as 400 BC by Xenophon , a Greek military historian.

I am sure that every book written since then has claimed to be unique but in fact they are really all delivering the same message. That is because good leadership consists of a basic set of principles, which are common to all delivery models; listen empathetically, develop relationships based on trust, provide clear consistent communication, acknowledge performance.

Unfortunately we can’t become great leaders by reading great books. Leadership, like any other skill, is about learning by doing. Research has shown that we learn 20% of what we see, hear or read, 70% of what we see, hear and discuss and 90% of what we see, hear, discuss and practice.

Just as you could not perfect your tennis serve or your golf swing without practicing those skills, you cannot become a good leader without practicing leadership at every opportunity. (A new skill cannot be used competently or fluidly until it is practiced to the point of mastery.)

Practice is most effective in an environment of trust that provides emotional support and objective feedback. An executive meeting is not the place to begin! An effective plan would be to start with an experiential workshop where active learning is supported in an objective and constructive manner.

Beyond the workshop support and feedback can be found in many groups and environments. Look for other workshop participants who are also seeking to develop their leadership, executive coaches and mentors or trusted supportive co-workers and employees.

I am very fortunate in that I have twenty horses that are happy to provide feedback daily about my leadership skills. It is impossible to spend time with a horse without learning something about yourself. I also have a business partner (my husband) and long-time staff who will provide honest and objective criticism when asked (and often when I don’t ask!)

I have a great collection of books but I know that if I want to improve my skills as a leader I need to spend more time with the horses and the people in my life.

Laura Hunter

"Horses want to see the same qualities of character in their leaders that we want to see in ourselves. It's simple: Being the better horse can develop the balance to becoming a better person."
Chris Irwin

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