A few stray thoughts on leadership.

When perched astride a horse, it’s tempting to think of her as you might a motorcycle—point it in the direction you want, hit the gas, and go—but this would be an error. While you may be in charge, your horse has feelings about the desired direction, footing, and speed, and the more you can get her onboard with the general plan, the more helpful she’ll be.

This is probably my favorite photograph of me.

When moseying along an easy trail, it might not make much difference if your horse is with you or not, though as anyone who’s dealt with a cranky horse can attest, it isn’t much fun. When trying to do something more complex, however, such as wrangling cattle, it’s critical your horse is aligned because she’s the one who has to do the actual ‘hands on’ work of peeling a cow from the herd and guiding it into the pen. You might be pointing out which cow to nab, but then it’s largely up to her, with your help and guidance. 

Leveraging the strengths of your team (i.e. peeling cows from the herd) is an effective way to get them invested in the outcome of the project. 

If you think of leadership as control, this will be frustrating. But if you think of it as being about supporting your team’s success, it becomes much easier. We’ve all had leaders who micro-manage every aspect of the process. It’s demoralizing and enthusiasm crushing. Instead of building momentum and galloping to the goal, the energy drags to a halt, starting a vicious cycle. This is obviously not how you get the best work from them. Set the vision, empower your team, and give them the tools they need to succeed. 

Your horse is not a motorcycle. Partnership and support will take you farther, faster.