Managing our Emotional State as Leaders: It’s not about the horse!

Managing our Emotional State as Leaders: It’s not about the horse!

Her exasperation was clear to everyone, including him. It wasn’t just written on her face but painted all over her body language as well. ‘What am I doing wrong? He’s not listening to me! Why won’t he just do as I ask?’. We could almost imagine that stamping her foot and throwing her hands in the air in frustration might well be the next move.

Everything about her said: ‘I don’t feel respected as a leader, and I’m frustrated.’

Meanwhile, Big Red stood perfectly still, glued to the spot by boredom, his dopey eyes barely open and ears positioned in that sleepy, donkey-like, sideways position, resolutely ignoring any instructions he was issued. He was switched off and disengaged, putting in the bare minimum effort (sometimes, when he felt like it) and he had absolutely no interest in playing nice today.

Everything about him said: ‘I’m not interested in working with you while you’re in this state.’

At Hooked on Leadership, we frequently work with leaders who want to feel more competent and competent in their leadership roles so they can engage their teams more effectively, but their unresourceful emotions and self-talk are getting in the way.

Invariably, teaching leadership is not about how to ‘do’ more management stuff, but how to ‘be’ more effective as a leader. In other words, our leaders realise that mastering more management tasks – for example, more accurately reading financial statements, writing better board reports, or perfectly presenting the strategic plan – will not engage their people and make them want to go the extra mile.

Our leaders at Hooked on Leadership learn that managing our emotional state – that is, how present and certain we feel on the inside, especially in the face of uncertainty – is what allows us to be effective and trustworthy as leaders.

So, when we’re feeling frustrated, exasperated and even angry with our teams for not engaging or performing like we’d hoped, it’s very easy for our horses (and your people!) to perceive this in our body language – even when we’re trying our best to hide it! And since we know that 93% of our communication when it comes to emotional dialogue is experienced through our tone and body language – only 7% of perceived communication is from the spoken word – then learning to be emotionally stable and congruent under pressure is essential.

In this case, Big Red easily sensed her frustration and disappointment in him (and herself) and despite her firm instructions, he chose not to cooperate with her while she was in that state.

We help leaders learn to manage their emotional state through the three key pillars of presence, certainty and service, so that their teams can trust and feel good about engaging with them again.

In fact, as we approach the various equine learning activities, we are often heard to say: ‘This activity is not about what you can get the horse to do or not do, it’s about learning how to manage yourself and your emotions.’

We find that when our leaders are fully present, certain within themselves (even in uncertain situations) and acting in service to the animals, beautiful things can happen in the partnership between human and horse.

However, when our leaders are worried about their own performance, how they look in front of others when executing challenging tasks, or whether they can ‘win’ against the horse, we find that the relationship between human and horse breaks down and the desired outcomes – navigating challenges in partnership – becomes impossible to achieve.

If you’d like to learn how to feel more confident and competent through accessing presence, certainty and service in leadership, just reach out – we’re here to help.