I feel sad for our country. I feel sad that there’s this much hate, distrust, and separation—that people are so afraid and on the attack.
It’s nasty out there right now.
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I started to write this Lessons from Jove blog post about something completely unrelated to politics and couldn’t get the words out. They just wouldn’t come.
I realized that the other post wasn’t coming along because I needed to write about the election instead.
One of the things my horse, Jove, taught people (and other horses) was how to be an effective leader. What I’d like to share with you now is how Jove’s wisdom, which he imparted through our Equine Facilitated Learning sessions, can be applied to the decision that we’re making on November 8th about who is going to lead our great nation.
It’s fairly obvious that there’s a distinct difference between the ways that Hillary and Trump lead. Here’s how their different leadership styles would play out in a horse herd.
Horses respond instantly to what’s going on around them, so they’re a great barometer of what’s really happening. They’ll either think, “What you’re doing makes me feel safe and I can trust you.” Or, “I don’t feel safe and I need to get away from you.”
Before I describe how a herd of horses would respond to a potential Trump or Clinton presidency, I want to go over what Jove taught me about leadership.
Effective leaders are:
- Assertive and direct
- Dynamic and willing to evolve
- Good listeners and synthesizers of information
- Watchful and willing to blow the whistle
- Willing to make bold decisions and follow through with them.
- Concerned for the well-being of their fellow horses (or men)
- Able to communicate their vision in a way that inspires trust and understanding
If a leader is missing any of one of these components, they will be ineffective—they won’t be fully trusted or respected by the group. And an ineffective leader will ultimately cause a breakdown in the system, until an effective leader can be found to fill that void.
If Trump was a horse, and he approached a horse herd in the same way he’s approaching the people of our country, to become leader, here’s how the horses would respond.
At first, they would defer to him. They would kowtow, adopt a subservient posture, and give up their best shaded nap locale to him. But at the earliest opportunity, they would try to get away from him. He wouldn’t feel safe to them, because while he does possess some of the effective leadership qualities, he doesn’t use them in a mature and trustworthy way.
And a herd that is constantly fearful and unstable is ultimately dysfunctional.
I’ve seen horses who act like this come into Jove’s herd many times…
They come in with an explosive demonstration of force, keeping the other horses away from food, water, and shelter. Kicking, biting, harassing them if they showed any attempt to stand up for themselves. In some cases, preventing some of the horses from being able to be a part of the herd at all.
If Hillary was a horse, she would come into the herd and – on the surface – might seem “standard issue.”
Leaders in the horse world are always being tested, and horse Hillary would be no exception (that’s a trademark of healthy, functional herds). The horses need to be sure that they are safe and the only way they can do that is if their leader is up to the task. So, as Hillary was continually tested, she would continue becoming a stronger leader.
She would tirelessly check in with the herd, listening to their varied and many needs and working hard to make sure they were met. She would make decisions based on the herd’s best interest, even if they were sometimes unpopular. She might have a hard time getting everybody on the same page at first, but her willingness to be self-reflective and dynamic would mean that she would constantly be evolving with the needs of the herd. Which is essential because horses are dynamic, changing in an instant based on what’s happening in the moment.
There would be a shake-up, and some instability at first, but the herd would grow to feel increasingly safe because of the effective leadership qualities she would exhibit.
For all of these reasons, the herd would feel safe with her.
You may be shaking your head in disagreement right now, but remember we’re talking about the candidate that horses would elect to lead them.
And there’s a lot we can learn from horses. They have a knack for simplifying things that we – as humans – make much more complex than they need to be.