Not sure how clear your communication is? Ask a horse.

Recently I spent a day working with horses as an exercise in leadership development*. We led horses through an obstacle course with and without ropes; we led the horses individually and as a team and we led the horses from the front and (attempted) to lead them from behind. Easier said than done!

All these activities with the horse provided a window into our personal leadership styles and how we communicate our vision (read: metaphor for our followers, team members, stakeholders). The horse is a mirror of your energy and intent. If you are unclear about your direction or hesitant to share your direction clearly it will simply stop walking until you become more solid in where you are going. If you are aggressive or pushy it will simply resist your lead and pull back from you. If you establish a connection with the horse, move forward calmly with a clear intent and a grounded presence, the horse will follow your lead.

A horse's reaction to you is the same as the reaction other people have to you, only it’s instant, unfiltered and magnified. You are never left to wonder where you stand with a horse. Does it agree? Is it on board? Is it engaged? It either is or it isn’t and its response is unequivocal. The lesson from working with horses to improve leadership and communication is that we are affecting people all the time with how we chose to show up. Horses highlight our impact on others, but if you look hard enough you don't need a horse to read the responses; the signs are always there to see.

Coaching tips:

  • What response do you get from your leadership style? Compliance, engagement, resistance
  • What are the signs that indicate each of these responses?
  • How can you use these responses as an invitation to try a different style if you are not getting the result you want?
  • What would the micro-responses from your people tell you if they were magnified and immediate (like with a horse)? E.g. a certain look, a certain tone, a frown or furrowed brow


As a professional People Whisperer, Anneli has been working with leaders and teams to improve their communication and interpersonal intelligence for almost a decade.
If you’d like to improve your interpersonal effectiveness and influence, or decode the behaviours’ of others, contact Anneli today.

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