By Patrick Gallen, Partner, People and Change Consulting, Grant Thornton
I am a great fan of the work of June Burgess at Ballygraffan, Comber, Co Down, and how June uses Horses for People Leadership Training to help leaders in developing their ‘inner stance’.
Leadership involves making decisions and taking actions in order to solve problems and achieve objectives.
Many endeavours in life are a matter of acquiring skills and knowledge and then applying them in a reliable way, but leadership relies most strongly on less tangible and less measurable things like trust, inspiration, attitude, decision-making, and personal character.
These are not processes nor skills or even necessarily the result of experience. They are facets of humanity, enabled partly by the leader’s character and in particular, by his/her ‘inner stance’.
The good news is that anyone who wants to be a more effective leader can do so by developing the ability to adapt their inner stance to be effective in any situation. In other words, they can alter the place they ‘are coming at the situation from’.
Dusan Djukich, in Straight Line Leadership, describes inner stance as “the mental posture you assume”. Like a golf stance or a yoga pose, it can be adjusted at any time to achieve a better result.
You can choose the stance of serving the people you lead, rather than a stance of pleasing them. You can choose to be an enabler of others, rather than dictatorial.
You can choose many different leadership stances. Some people have only one stance, which may be right for certain situations and wrong for others.
They think that it is ‘just how they are’ but they are simply working from an inner stance that they have chosen at an earlier stage of life and have stuck with, regardless of the consequences.
Adaptability of stance is an increasingly significant aspect of leadership, because the world is increasingly complex and dynamic, and it is essential to have a keen understanding of relationships, often within quite large and intricate networks.
There is nothing false about changing your inner stance. In fact, it is about honestly assessing your stance on an ongoing basis and committing to improve it from a place of integrity. Adaptability stems from objectivity, which in turn stems from emotional security and emotional maturity.
Again, these strengths are difficult to measure except in terms of results.
Today, the ability to be aware of and then, if necessary, adapt your inner stance is more important than ever. The world is more transparent and connected than it has ever been. The actions and philosophies of organisations are scrutinised by the media and the general public as never before.
This coincides with massively increased interest in corporate responsibility and the many related concepts, such as social and community responsibility.
The modern leader needs to understand and aspire to leading people and achieving greatness in all these areas and, as such, an ability to understand and apply the correct inner stance to the myriad of situations is essential.
That’s why working with horses can help leaders, as the horse is very sensitive to the intent or inner stance of the person.