Nice Guys Don't Finish First

You can’t prove to your horse that you are a leader by being a nice guy. When people work with my horses they often feel it is important that their horse like them. It is difficult for them to accept the fact that horses really only care about a person’s leadership capabilities.

To assert leadership over a horse we must control it’s mind and to do that we must control it’s movement. Control is a leadership issue that makes many of us uncomfortable. Authority and control often carry a negative connotation.

The reality is that someone has to be in charge whether it be the herd leader, the CEO of the company, or the leader of the office team. Teams need clear goals, behavioural boundaries, expectations and consequences for performance. A leader can establish all of these parameters in a positive way if he proactively sets the boundaries from the beginning.

When we work with a horse we must have clearly defined spatial boundaries. If we do not establish our boundaries from the beginning and consistently maintain them the horse will push into our space. Then we have to reactively push back.

The same situation occurs at the office when we don’t establish and maintain the ground rules because we want to be perceived as that ‘nice guy’. People are unclear of the rules or they choose to push the boundaries. The results are conflicts and rivalries that necessitate those difficult conversations we would all rather avoid.

The truth is that most people are happier and more secure in their positions if the rules are clearly spelled out. I have a large Clydesdale mare who is a very intelligent alpha horse. She is a very likeable girl and people usually choose to handle her in a friendly and gentle manner often deferring to her wishes. Her response is to tune out and it is easy to see that she is disinterested. When someone takes control, sets the boundaries and asserts their leadership her entire body comes alive and she engages with them quite enthusiastically.

So when people remark that my horses must love me I tell them the truth. My horses are happy to work with me and for me because I am the leader who creates the structures and boundaries that they need. I believe they understand that there are times when I have to step up and make the tough decisions. I haven’t asked them but I am hopeful that my human employees feel the same way.

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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