What can contemporary leaders learn from horses? If that sounds like a crazy question, bear with me. Senior Roffey Park consultants Tom Kenward and Sue Binks have actually learnt a lot from our equine friends: these animals have, over many thousands of years, evolved a survival mechanism that not only makes them fully present and aware but also makes them sensitively attuned to the emotional states of those around them.
This is why Kenward and Binks have developed “equine assisted learning”; in teaching a horse to learn new tricks, the horse will teach the teacher a lot about the emotional and bodily states he or she is unwittingly transmitting. If you don’t have access to a horse, there are still some powerful activities you can practise to enhance the congruence and presence discussed in Part One.
Take a few moments at the end of a busy day to reflect on any “trigger points” that arose to drive you into a habitual mental response. These are the moments when we transiently lose congruence, making us less resourceful than we could have been if our presence wasn’t dissipating. Think about how those trigger points got you into your misaligned state, and compare them with situations and moments when you were focused and clear under pressure. Think of how you managed.
If a “challenge moment” arises during the day, practise silently noticing and naming the emotions that are activated in you. Try shifting your body so that you can feel differently about the challenge – a quick stroll around the office or changing perspective by standing up can help improve your presence, as can subtler activities such as noticing your breathing rate and consciously slowing and deepening it.
Keeping your physical self in good condition with an activity that requires attentiveness to inner and outer worlds (such as a martial art or yoga) can also help maintain presence and improve your mental sharpness.