3 More Leadership Lessons From A Horse Whisperer

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Photo Credit: mnsc Creative Commons

I saw Larry the cowboy again this last week. He attends my church, so I usually see him on Sundays. But seeing him this time reminded me of some more lessons he shared with me on horsemanship, and leadership.

He told me that horses, like people, need a few things to be effective companions and good workers.
They need:
Security
Friendship
A Leader.

Security. A safe place. Somewhere they can be comfortable and not feel harassed or in danger.
Friendship. Someone to talk to and get to know outside of the professional sphere.
A Leader. Not being afraid of confrontation. Knowing where you want to go and sharing that.

He also described one way he uses Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits in leading and rehabilitating his horses. He told me that he never appreciated the Seven Habits until he thought one day about his horses and how he could use it with them.
He said to First Seek to Understand. Before acting on a certain behavior, find out why, or what is causing the behavior. And then you can address the source, and not just the symptom.

Lastly, he said something that showed to me his passion for his profession. He said that a horse and a man are the ultimate team. They were meant to work together. They complement each other’s strengths and buoy up the weaknesses.

In summary, I learned from him that if I can provide security, friendship and be a leader, my team will be happy. If I seek to understand before I intervene, I will more likely help than hurt. And if the right team comes together, they can be…

unstoppable.

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Strengths Training For Leaders Part 1

What is Strengths-Based Leadership?

I’ve always been taught it’s vital to be well-rounded. If I have weaknesses, I should strengthen them. If I struggled with a subject in school, I should study harder, and “just learn it.”
That’s not necessarily true.

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A friend introduced me to The Strengths-Based ideas a few months ago. Just prior, my team and I had taken the DISC personality profiles. The Strengths approach offered additional clarity.
About the same time I heard the author, Tom Rath, on the Entreleadership podcast talking about his book, Strengths-Based Leadership. In that podcast, he gave an example of why focusing on strengths is important.

Report Card

He asked if you were a parent, and your child brought home a report card with
4 A’s and
1 C,
which subject would get the most attention?
The C right? Most likely it would be the subject in which the child doesn’t have a natural aptitude, or doesn’t enjoy. All the while, ignoring the subjects he loves or is good at. Why is that the case? Why can’t we focus and build on what our kids do well? Why can’t being great at a few things be good enough?
But we don’t always take the opportunity to invest in those talents early.
Tom Rath shows an equation of what constitutes a strength,

Talent  X  Investment = Strength

The Key

The key, he says is to invest and build on who you already are.

Gallup polling, and Donald Clifton developed the Strengths-Based philosophy. Basing it on years of polling data and statistical studies. They interviewed successful leaders and identified 34 Strengths, or attributes that these leaders showed.

Not Well-Rounded

Not every successful leader has the same strengths. They just have spent time recognizing their own strengths and developing them. They were not “well-rounded”, but they knew themselves and they gathered a team around them to help make up for their weaknesses.
When I bought the book, “Strengths-Based Leadership” I was given a code to take the Strengths Finder 2.0 online test. It was revealing about who I really was, and what I do well.
I think the results were right on the money.
My top 5 Strengths are:

1. Learner
2. Context
3. Connectedness
4. Input
5. Belief

Let’s take a look at my number 1:

Learner,
I am an avid learner. I am always reading something. I’ve been known to pack a suitcase full of books for vacation. I can’t seem to help myself. So, with that in mind, I need to leverage that, and build on that strength.
I take continuing education courses every year. I’m an avid note-taker, I use them for review and teaching my team.

In summary, get to know who you are, develop your talents. Invest in your strengths. Don’t strive to be the well-rounded person that our culture values so much.

Be strong.

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What are your strengths?

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Next time, we’ll investigate how this philosophy can help you build a rockstar team.