How do others see you?
It can be a lonely place for leaders, particularly for those in senior positions. How often how you perform, the decisions you make and what you say or do is subject to critique from your team and your peers.
Many development programmes use experiential learning, but this is usually in the form of a game or roleplay, or an activity which relies on facilitators and peer participants to give feedback. These are still useful activities, but feedback will be socially filtered and is likely to be given after the fact when you can no longer do anything differently.
If you really want to know more about how you are responded to simply for who you are, then spend some time with a horse.
Horses are highly social and have no knowledge or interest in human hierarchies or status. They don’t know whether you are the CEO or the cleaner; they only know how you are relating to them in the moment and will provide an immediate, open and honest response.
Horses are supremely aware of their environment, including the emotional state of the herd around them, of which humans can be part. Without language they work on a physical and emotional level, picking up micro body language cues. In turn their body language and what they are or are not willing to do for us is vital feedback. Horses communicate on this level, not because they feel like it, but for the safety of the herd. They are constantly asking: “Who is leading here? Me or you?” “If you are leading, do I trust you enough to follow? Are you leading like you really mean it?”
This is illustrated by one senior leader’s experience in an equine assisted learning session at Roffey Park. He managed to take a very spirited ex-racehorse and turn it into a yawning, dope on a rope within 10 mins. When the horse’s change in behaviour was pointed out to him, he said, "I thought it was just people I did that to". Within seconds of him taking the rope and leading, the horse was nipping at his shoulder as if trying to get his attention. When that had no effect, his head lowered, his gait slowed, he came to a standstill, yawned and went to sleep. When we talked about what this was like for the executive, he said "I have known for a while that my heart wasn’t in being a leader, I just hadn’t realised how obvious to others it was." At this the horse sighed loudly and lifted his head. This experience of the horse getting underneath a participant’s façade is common.