My Surreal Equine Leadership Experience, No Horse sh*t

This weekend I was invited to experience leadership development in a way that bucks the norm – through horses. I admit, I went with no real expectations and with some hefty skepticism. Being an innovator and advocate for the uncomfortable, I took on the challenge with no reservations.

I was blown away. Just a few minutes in the pasture at the Southern Grace ranch in Selma, NC was worth the less than 30 minute drive from Raleigh, NC. Teaching Horse Founder and CEO, June Gunter, was magical. Her ability to create an incredible learning experience filled with intense connection and insightful discovery was mesmerizing.

Here are the 3 things I learned:

  • Horses are the best BS detectors. They know when you are trying to force something. I was with some peers and I wanted the horses to “like” me. Well, that was my first mistake, trying to walk into a herd of horses with an agenda. With some instruction from June, I was able to let go of any expectations or must-have outcomes and found my authentic self as I walk among the herd. Powerful lesson 1 – you can’t force anything, and you have everything you need to make things happen.
  • Horses are perceptive and discerning. I admit I know nothing about horses. I have ridden a few in my time and have even shuffled some sh*t once when helping out a on a ranch during a brief vocation vacation. I am not afraid of horses, nor am I in love with them. I respect them and, now, more than ever. June has a real-live-no-jive American wild horse named Hope. It’s a little uncomfortable approaching a wild horse because of the image of stampede or possibility of head-bucking, but facing that fear and connecting with this gentle giant for a few minutes, taught me powerful lesson number 2: I was worthy as I am. That I have something special to offer that only I could offer without any agenda or trying. Hope’s intense stare into my eyes, and laser focus taught me the power of confidence – your own and others in you. Leaders forget the power and responsibility they have for themselves and those that follow them.
  • Rock back and breathe was powerful lesson 3. Rock back and breathe is this notion when you are approaching a horse, you must pause, take a step back, and breathe to indicate that you aren’t a predator. More importantly that you aren’t trying to bully or overpower the situation. You are establishing a relationship built on mutual trust and respect. Translation for the real world — could you imagine what would happen in the board room and beyond if more people would just rock back and breathe— the relationships, the collaboration, the progress… Rock back and breathe would change the world.

These were just a few lessons I discovered. If you have ever heard of equine leadership development and dismissed it, DON’T. I kid you not…this was definitely no horse sh*t.It was meaningful and surprisingly practical. If you want to learn more, check out Teaching Horse. BONUS: They are having an open enrollment day session this Friday, September 15, 2017. That’s right, anyone can experience what I did and more. June and team are offering a huge discount to share this experience with peeps in the Triangle and there are limited spots available. As I said, that 30- minute drive may have just changed my life. Thanks June, Hope and the entire herd!

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K. Melissa Kennedy

Chief Innovation Officer, Founder, Intrapreneur. Entrepreneur. Enthusiastic leader and speaker. Teller of truths at 48 Innovate
I spent many years working for and building successful companies. I parlayed that experience into a unique process for harnessing hidden assets inside organizations and turning them into big-idea-generating, $1-billion-revenue-producing resources. (Spoiler alert: it’s the people.) I'm an internationally acclaimed expert, happy to share the not-so-secrets that have led to impressive outcomes for Fortune 100 corporations, major educational institutions, start-up companies and entrepreneurs. Working with companies like Cisco, Lancope, Arby's, Capitol Broadcasting Company New Media - WRAL, PRSONAS, Cranfill Sumner & Hartzog, REVO Communications, Erno Group, Focus Carolina, Madan Global, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, INZONE Brands, Albright Digital, Spring Metrics and NC State Kenan Fellows.

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