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Courses with horses create enlightened leaders.

Updated: Jul 5, 2019

Coal South Africa , News


Horseman Leadership

You might be surprised to learn that horses are the coaches in what has to be Coal South Africa’s most compelling supervisory development programme to date.

The recently introduced Horseman Leadership Engagement Programme represents a massive departure from classroom learning and is helping our supervisors identify limiting behaviours during their interactions with horses.


Why horses?

Like people, horses are highly intuitive creatures and are sensitive to what’s happening around them. They pick up on body language and tension in the air and respond best when trust is earned. If they recognise a strong, respectful leader they’ll feel protected and will gladly follow. But if they don’t, expect immediate resistance.

“Taking the incorrect approach, you’ll get absolutely nothing out of a horse and it’ll immediately mirror how you feel,”

says training manager Steve Clarke who explains how the same applies in the workplace.

“If leaders display uncertainty, fear or anger, they can expect their team members to feel exactly the same way. Added to this, poor communication and interpersonal skills – in the paddock and at work – cause conflict, stress and miscommunication, all of which lead to undesired outcomes.”


Instant, honest feedback

Delegates spend half a day interacting with horses, starting in the stables where grooming and trust- building takes place. This process is followed by a series of engagements that build up to the handler issuing instructions that are either obeyed or challenged, depending on their approach.

“Horses don’t care who you are or what your title is; they provide instant feedback on precisely where you’re going wrong,”

says programme facilitator Adriaan Graham – a lifelong horseman with more than three decades of experience in human resource development and business psychology. He explains how regardless of whether the issue is trust, tone of voice, body language or the inability to manage emotions like anxiety, frustration or annoyance, the horse leads its handler directly to the source of the problem.

“Fortunately, they’re forgiving animals, so a change in approach will soon lead to the desired outcome,” says Adriaan, adding that this results in a vivid learning experience that can be applied directly in the workplace.


Horseman Leadership

“This is a programme where the penny really drops, and our people are loving it,”

says Steve of an initiative that is delivering ‘aha moments’ that will translate into effective, enlightened leadership.


Seventy of our more than 300 supervisors have been exposed to the programme, with the rest to follow during the course of 2019.

“Horses demonstrate that your energy precedes you. So many people walk into a room and think, ‘I’m really irritated with these people, but I’m going to show up and they’re never going to know’. Yes they will – the same way a horse does. If you go out there and you’re not authentic, horses aren’t going to have anything to do with you.” – ‘8 Lessons horses can teach you about business’, www.forbes.com
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