Can Animals Teach Leadership?

After being home for a week, I realized I had accomplished many things; facilitated a Board training and a Joy of Business leadership workshop, taken a few tele-classes, started some promotional work and new systems for my clients, attended a networking event, created a new marketing campaign for my new business, yet I really had not taken any time for me and my body.

I went to bed late as I have done for many weeks and months but chose to wake up early and go spend some time with my horse, Angel. The minute I got in my car, my whole body relaxed, I had a huge smile on my face, and I could not wait to be with her. When I arrived in her field, it was as though she said, “Thank you for coming.” She was playful, wanted to be scratched, and wanted to eat all the carrots I had brought with me.  She kissed me, hugged me, let me groom her then it was time for me to go to work. As I was leaving, another owner arrived with a few carrots in his pocket. His horse was not interested at all to move towards him but Angel immediately came up to him and happily grabbed the carrot out of his hand. After watching Angel enjoy a few carrot pieces, the other horse approached his owner and ate his carrots.

Angel normally does not move from what she is doing, especially when she is leading the herd. She likes to have people approach her then she can decide if she is going or staying. It was so interesting to watch the interaction of Angel and this owner, his horse, and the other 13 horses who were just observing it all and not willing to move at all. Angel was willing to be the leader. She was also willing to be part of the negotiations, and she was willing to then walk away.

I would normally not feed another owner’s horse but I realized how much Angel was willing to do anything required to get what she was desiring.

How many of us are willing to do whatever is required to reach our goals and targets in our personal life and/or in business? What limitations, barriers, and domino effect of challenges are we creating by the things we are not being willing to be or do?

One of my favorite Joy of Business tools is “What if everything in our lives, including animals, can contribute to us and everything we are trying to add into our lives?”

How do animals contribute, you ask? Ask yourself this question, “What happens when I am in the company of animals, think about them, watch a video of animals or even look outside my window and see a bird flying by?”

For me, I get an immediate sense of joy and my whole body relaxes. It does not matter what fire we were trying to put out a minute earlier, or how many different tasks needed to be completed. The act of taking a moment to enjoy the animals also opens us my creative channels. I am able to come up with more solutions, ideas, and approaches I may have not considered.

In addition to creating a level of peace and creativity, did you know that animals provide us with constant information and awareness too? Sometimes we think it is them misbehaving or not listening to us, or having a bad habit, or being out of control but what I have found is the opposite. Animals are constantly communicating with us and many times showing us what we are actually doing or not doing. They constantly show us, in their actions, what we are not even willing to see or do; ways we are not willing to step up and be the leaders we truly can be.

In the horse world, every day is a new day for being the leader. There is always one alpha horse and that horse tries to keep its ranking while the other horses may choose to step up and eat first or lead the herd. Just like people, not all horses desire to lead and do not make the efforts to change their own ranking. Angel is different. She is willing to be the lead Mare (female horse) and she is willing to let others lead. Every day is different.

What if being a leader had nothing to do with having a title or people that directly report into you? What if today we can be the leader and tomorrow let someone else lead? What else can we learn about ourselves and all the limitless possibilities that are truly available?

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Laleh Alemzadeh Hancock is a management and professional services consultant, a facilitator of many specialties and the founder and CEO of global professional services company, Belapemo and Global Wellness For All.  With nearly 30 years’ experience in operational excellence, change management and business consulting, Laleh has inspired and empowered hundreds of thousands of individuals including Fortune 500 executives, government agencies, non-profit organizations, kids of all ages, athletes and veterans.  A lifelong entrepreneur and passionate change-agent, Laleh strives to seek out possibility in every problem and aims to facilitate strategic change and optimal growth for all her clients.  She is an advocate for people of ages with special needs or disabilities and their caregivers, and served on the Governor of Maryland’s Caregivers Support Coordinating Council for four years.