What is the Quality of Your Leadership?


by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA by Certified Coach Alissa Gauger, MBA

Place the palms of your hands together, matching up both hands. Next, open your hands on the pinkie end and place your thumbs on your nose. What do you see?

Now you’re seeing how a prey animal sees, minus the ability to see all the way behind yourself. Next put your hands down and think about what you see when you look around the way you normally do. 

When a horse sees that your eye placement is on the front of your head the horse immediately knows that you are a predator. You have a hard focus and tend to be a direct-line thinker. Your actions are also very straight-line. Since a predator in the animal kingdom never knows where his or her next meal is coming from, it’s easier to entice them with food.

Horses see things entirely differently. With their eye placement on the side of their heads, they have soft focus. Their eyes give them a view of everything in their environment. They are very aware of everything—constantly taking in all of the information. They will advance and retreat toward a destination or other horses, meander somewhere while checking for threats and not be easily swayed by treats. Food is everywhere when you’re an herbivore!

What does all of this mean? Everything if you want to be a great leader!

Coaching with horses provides humans the opportunity to gain feedback on leadership skills, the ability to practice building trusting partnerships, a chance to gauge our communication abilities and boundary-setting effectiveness and more. This is all possible because horses can read human biofeedback including our heart’s electromagnetic field and our emotions. They read our energy—not our minds. They do not accept charms or bribes—only genuine connection.

This unbiased feedback from the horse allows us to understand:

Where we are in the moment (past, present or future) 

Have we set an intention

Are our emotions and actions in alignment

Do we have clear boundaries

Feelings that are occurring such as fear, nervousness, anxiety, happiness, anger and any emotion

Quality of our communication 

Leadership strengths and areas to improve

How other perceive us

“Working with horses provides a safe way for people to become aware of messages they are ‘sending out’ unconsciously and how this impacts their relationships, and therefore, their leadership,” writes Lisa Murrell and Cindy Schwarz in Choice—The Magazine of Professional Coaching. It is interactive, experiential coaching. Clients can connect with a horse, gain feedback and learn more about their inner world. Once there is deeper understanding, coaching facilitates the opportunity to change and get new and better results that translate immediately to real life.

Wealth Management Advisor Dave Dettmann said after experiencing coaching with horses, “you think you know yourself so well and then all of these little things show up during the Unleash Your Practice Equus Retreat that would probably take years of coaching to figure out.”

As a Financial Representative (FR), you have the opportunity to provide a sense of safety and connection with your clients. Many of the topics you address such as death, disability, aging, debt, money, retirement and more can cause your clients to feel fearful. By working with horses, you can learn how to become a strong, safe leader for humans to trust with these vulnerable topics.

Horses can also teach us how to use “soft focus” as a tool in building a strong practice. Is direct-line thinking creating “hard focus” that shuts off your access such as the subtle signals people send you, their feelings and input? Many leaders blaze a trail ahead that leaves staff, clients and family in the dust. Assuming that the horse “just knows what you want” is often the same way we treat people.

If you would like to take a profound, life-changing look in the mirror, I invite you to try equus coaching. The physical, mental, and emotional power of interacting with a 1200 pound animal and a team of coaches is hard to imagine for many. I challenge you to see for yourself.

Coaching Tip Pets and children are another source of direct feedback. Observe how a pet or a child reacts to your energy. They do not have the social filters that adult humans have developed. For example, if you come home from your practice every day in a high state of stress you might observe your young child mirroring your state through tantrums, outbursts or even crying. Dogs may start barking or getting excitable when you are in an anxious state. Try calming yourself through slow, deep breaths. When you find a place of calm you will likely see it reflected right back.