A = Authenticity

The horse does not listen to our words, our convincing tone or willing smile.
It listens only to that part of us that is authentic” – 
Ariana Strozzi

The A in IMPACTFUL leadership stands for Authenticity and today we are going to examine what it means to be authentic and how this is a vital leadership skill.

For me being authentic is more powerful than any amount of skills and qualifications I could have.  With authenticity comes a sense of genuineness and purpose, clarity and focus all attributes that are quite often sadly lacking in our society. And why, because the ego gets in way.  The ego is the mask that we wear to try and conform to society and live and act as others think we should.

Leadership depends on our ability to be in alignment, to be wholly congruent and therefore authentic.  This is our natural state when we are feeling at our best, alive and decisive.  Leadership does not mean knowing all the answers – you can decide not to decide¸ you can decide not to know- you can also decide what questions to ask. The point is that leadership is about making a decision, a choice and sticking with it.  All too often in organisations I come across people that dither around, they can’t make a decision.  Would this type of person inspire you to follow them?  If you were a horse and your life depended upon this person could you trust them to make the right decision?  I bet the answer is no, if your life depended on it you would rather follow someone who exuded confidence, clarity and certainty.  Sure, they might make the wrong decision, but at least they have made a decision and moved the organisation forward.

In her book The Way of the Horse Linda Kohanov describes horses as “authenticity meters” and this is why they are such great teachers in a Horse Assisted Coaching session.  As humans we have become experts at putting on masks to hide who we really are.  In fact some of the people I have met have worn a mask for so long, they really don’t know who the true authentic real self is.  As a result it is easy for them to delude both themselves and others that everything is as they want it in their life, when exactly the opposite is probably the truth.

Horses help us close the gap between how we actually present ourselves to others as distinct from how we think we are being.  As super-sensitive energy readers they are hard wired to avoid predators, and don’t trust, respect or understand anything that is not authentic.  When faced with inauthenticity a horse natural instinct will be to run away, a response triggered by his flight response.  At best he is likely to ignore you as happened to Martin Clunes, the actor and co-incidentally the President of the British Horse Society, in the TV documentary HorsePower when he experienced a Horse Assisted Therapy session in Arizona.

During the session the facilitator asked Martin Clunes to hang out with the horse and get the horse to connect with him.  Now Martin Clunes is a relatively experienced horseman and despite his best attempts at getting the horse to connect with him, the horse just stayed away and drunk water and ate hay.  When the facilitator asked what was happening Martin Clunes admitted that he just wanted the horse to acknowledge him and that he was upset that the horse was blatantly ignoring him.  As these words were uttered the horse raised his head and begun to acknowledge Martin Clune’s presence – it was a break through.  And as Martin Clunes became clearer and more congruent in himself as to why he wanted the horse to connect with him, the horse obliged, eventually following him around like a dog on a leash.  All the horse wanted was for Martin Clunes to lose his mask, acknowledge his need for recognition and take ownership of that emotion, and in doing so become more authentic.

Extract from Unbridled Success – How The Secret Lives of Horses Can Impact Your Leadership, Teamwork and Communication Skills.  You can purchase the book here from Amazon

On November 14th, 2012, posted in: Authenticity by

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