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A 1-minute authentic leadership metaphor.

Paul is led through a 'breakthrough' session
by a horsejoy coach.

Paul enjoying a joyfully trusting relationship
with Boris.

Click here for 10-minute case-study



Anger and fear can be a pathway to authentic relationship


Yesterday, I truly learned something very powerful – anger and hurt feelings can be the pathway to truly fulfilling relationships - if we pass through understanding.

There’s an idea going round the ‘New Paradigm’ horse world that horses are ‘great, wise teachers’ ‘sent’ to heal humanity from its bad ways.

I prefer to empower humanity by saying that we are here to  learn new things and balance old mistakes. For some of us (me included) building relationships with horses is a powerful way of accelerating our own growth and learning.

Yesterday, after my post, believing he was ready, I hopped on my green, young, home-bred gelding, Boris (left). He very nearly spun me off. I had to grab his mane to stay on and perform an emergency hind- quarter disengage. Instead of going forward to the leg, he was backing up at great speed. Although I felt quite calm and present, my whole body was trembling and my hands were visibly shaking. I knew I had to get off asap, but did not want to reward this ‘rebellious’ behaviour.

I was feeling deeply upset. Boris and I have developed a beautiful, close, trusting relationship. I took this very personally. My fear was that he would turn from a cheeky, self-willed, playmate, into a rogue that I could never trust!

I decided to dismount and have him work on the lunge for twenty minutes. I admit I was angry. I had to restrain myself from doing this as a ‘punishment’. I love this animal in ways beyond words. After a few minutes, I could see him dodging the shade under the trees. It was a very bright, sunny afternoon, I realised he must be reacting to the contrast between intense light and dark shadow (how’s that for a metaphor?). At once I understood, from his perspective, why he was acting so violently! The whole energy and intent of the exercise changed. I was able to work him through his fear until he was quite ok about passing under the trees. I still gave him the twenty minutes because I could see the work was doing him good.

I was going to leave it at that for the day. In truth, I was afraid to get back on. So (of course) I had to challenge myself and take that risk. I asked Geri, my wife, to spot for me – just in case!

He was a different horse. As a test of my focus and our relationship, I took him through a prelim dressage test. He was calm, straight and moving forward with true impulsion. Wow! It came to the canter section. He went off on a thought, then, instead of his usual rush onto the forehand he came back on his haunches and (without my even asking) gave me a light, bouncy, collected canter – on a virtually loose rein! Wow and wow again!

My Chinese takeaway from this is to intend that in all my relationships, I can move a lot faster from fear and assumption towards seeking true understanding of the other’s point of view.

What about you?



Do You Have True Confidence – Or Are You Just Pretending?

“The insight I gained in just one day with Paul and his horses was truly amazing and very powerful.” - Jo Kelly, Head of Partner Development, Waitrose.

When a critical mass of false confidence escapes into the culture it causes many symptoms – frustration, depression, anger, pain, disease, decay, recession, war, poverty, addiction, crime...

True confidence is probably the most valuable, highly sought-after human quality. Valuable because it’s so powerful. Sought after because it’s notoriously hard to find. Those in possession of true confidence are not only successful in the material sense, but also inside where it really matters. Sadly, many of the legions of gurus, coaches and psychologists now jostling for attention on Google are unwitting purveyors of fools’ gold. Few truly understand the dynamics of authenticity.

So why talk to a guru? When you can whisper to a horse.

horsejoy AUTHENTIC LEADERSHIP (Horse-assisted authentic leadership development) is predicated on it.

We’re taught from an early age how to pretend we’re confident – when we’re not. But, like fool’s gold, when tested, false confidence fails. This typically leads, rather than to a deeper search for our authenticity, to developing even greater skill at pretending. The inner logic is irrefutable: ‘I am afraid I am (stupid, incapable, bad, worthless, etc). Evidence from my past proves this. I must either develop a strategy to prove this is not true or accept my fate that it is.’ As we strengthen our intention to prove we’re ok – we also strengthen the false belief that we’re not. It’s a tragic vicious spiral.

The bitter irony is, of course, that it is not true. We are ok. Period. Trying to prove we are not ‘not ok’ is like trying to prove you’re not a banana.

True confidence is the original, pure, natural state we are born with. It is who and how we really are. It doesn’t go anywhere - it just gets covered up by our so-called education. It is only found in the warm living room of the spiritual heart. It cannot survive in the cold dark pantry of the rational mind.

Because, true confidence began with our authentic state of being, reclaiming it begins with the risk of being authentic once again – we have to risk being vulnerable.

Risk? Yes, part of the strategy of the false self (ego) is to undermine our attempts to become authentic – to the ego, vulnerable equates with weakness. This is a fallacy. Vulnerability is the kissing cousin of confidence. It goes hand-in-hand . It is one of the keys to our greatest strength and greatest source of respect and influence. Look at the people you respect, admire, want to follow – most likely, they are confident enough in their authenticity to be vulnerable. They can repel the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune with impunity.

Our greatest fear is that the lies we have come to believe about ourselves are true. As Shakespeare once said:

‘Conscience doth make cowards of us all, and the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and enterprises of great pitch and moment, with this regard their currents turn awry, and lose the name of action.’

Avoiding the real leadership challenge costs you – everything you most want in your life!

Recently, the Head of Partner Development for one of the UK’s favourite retailers came to us for a discovery day. She was very clear that ‘authentic leadership’ was the way to go for the 21st century. Not so clear was the ‘how?’.

Now she is:

‘The personal insight I achieved with Paul and the horses was truly amazing, extremely powerful and, equally important - lots of fun. In one day, they enabled me to understand more about my leadership than I could have imagined possible. I attempted to lead Serendipity (the horse) the same way I lead my team - and got some pretty direct feedback! '

Jo had the courage to take that risk and she reaped the rewards.

Why is this so powerful and so immediate? Horses do not have an ego, therefore they cannot pretend nor can they be fooled by us when we do. Their very survival instincts means they resist all but authentic, honest leadership.

The coaching we do here first of all allows clients to uncover the true false beliefs (if you see what I mean) that are hiding their authenticity. Then we work with the horse’s feedback to redirect them back into their authentic self. As they touch into this, the horse immediately switches his response from resistance to cooperation. The client then enters a new spiral of increasing authenticity and, of course, true confidence. Through this confidence, they experience a totally new reference point of authentic leadership and genuine influence. Because this is not so much ‘learning’ as rediscovering, it effortlessly transfers back to the workplace and home life.

If our families, businesses and our countries are to ride out this recession, we have no other choice but to return to our authentic selves and the power of that innate confidence.

Working like this with horses is not the only way to rediscover your authenticity  - but it is probably the most immediate and cost-effective.

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Communication – from horse race to certainty - riding on relationship.

Despite the wondrous gift of language with which we humans are endowed, most of the time communication is a horse race – only if we’re lucky are we really understood.

Only when a communication engenders trust and respect as well as understanding do people willingly, enthusiastically act accurately and positively on what we say. in other words, if we don't make the relationship the priority we've lost the bigger game.

In all spheres of life, from boardroom to bedroom, the cost of being misunderstood is resentment. Like woodworm, resentment silently eats away at our relationships until suddenly it’s too late and it falls apart. It has been said ‘all the world’s problems are due to misunderstanding’.

It gets worse. If the communication from the start is a ‘tricky’ one (e.g. with an authority figure, a high-stakes negotiation, a team of diverse characters, a difficult subordinate, with a very different culture or language  – or involving unpleasant feedback) the dangers multiply exponentially. Typically, we can get locked into a dilemma – if I’m nice to them, they take advantage, don’t respect me. If I get tough, they resist, push back harder, threaten, etc.  –  we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t - because we've lost the relationship.

It gets even worse. Email. Email gets our message effortlessly around the globe to thousands of folk in seconds. Wonderful. Marvellous. We avoid that troublesome thing called 'relationship' and delude ourselves we're being 'efficient'. But the slightest human error in tone or nuance means ‘start adding those zeros to the loss column in the P&L the left of the decimal point’. And wonder why!

It gets worse still. Rarely does all this subtext come out in the open. It’s all rather emotional. At best, difficult to articulate, at worst, inappropriate or foolhardy to open those squirming, worm-filled cans. So what do we do...? We pretend it’s not happening. We stuff it back down inside us for those woodworms to feed on. Mistakes are not corrected – just repeated. If we're not understood, we shout. Possibilities, visions and goals are pared down to the lowest common denominator so as not to rattle the cage inside which is trapped all our potential like a wild stallion.  

Did someone mention horses? While you can never be certain which horse will win the race, you can always be certain it will win the leadership contest. Horses have not only evolved over 65 million years, they have thrived as ‘prey animals’ in a world dominated by predators. And Predators R us. We humans are by far the biggest, hungriest, most destructive, war-like predators on the planet. We demonstrate the very finest in leadership – and the very worst. Horses do not. They do not suffer from a human ego and its concomitant supply of slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. They are always authentic. They don’t pretend. They don’ t lie. They don’t need approval. They don’t play political games. They don’t care how important/not important we think we are. They just respond authentically to our intention. If our intention is clear, they give us what we ask for. If it’s not, they won’t.

With the assistance of a free-spirited horse and a highly-skilled facilitator you can receive surgically precise feedback that can literally transform the clarity of intention in your relationships and communications – you can discover inner qualities that have lain dormant for years - and hence multiply the positive results you will gain with your colleagues, friends and family. Multiply this by the number of people in your organisation or circle of influence and bingo – start adding those zeros back where you want them.

If you’d like a ‘risk-free’ intro to our life-changing work, click here or call me for a chat: 07595 824 390 or 01608 663 916.