The Water’s Not Fine, Is That Why We Stay Hidden?
I had known our big, black horse friend, Echo for nine years when we moved from her boarding stables to Flying Moon Farm. Nine years of playing, riding, competing and hanging out together. It only took a few months living together at our farm to realize that she was so much more magnificent than I ever imagined. It wasn’t until we changed how we lived that her brilliance could be seen – I don’t know if she knew it was there all along. I kinda think we discovered it in and for each other, together.
Before we moved, I thought she was living in great conditions, and it wasn’t that they were unsafe or miserable. I spent more per month on her board than many people spend on their apartment or mortgage. She had a masseur, a chiropractor, great feed, a big stall … pretty much everything that someone living in the equestrian world could want.
Or so I thought.
Why? Because that’s the way it was. That’s what I’d been taught.
Through the years that I’ve been creating and delivering leadership programs for organizations, I’ve noticed something – many, many people shrink, decline to step up, hold back from rising up as a leader. Sometimes they do this through a mask of authority or control. Many times, they are silent. There are all kinds of stats: only 4% of Fortune 500 CEO’s are women, in female dominated fields like teaching, only 30% are principals of schools, and, 1 in 3 girls report they are afraid to lead*. Only 20% of Gen Y women say that they want to follow in the footsteps of the female leaders in their workplaces and the stats are no stronger for Millennials.**
We think this is a skill issue, and certainly skills are a part of leading. But it wasn’t until I began to see what Echo was capable of as a leader that another insight emerged on why so many hold back or reject leadership.
Dominance doesn’t inspire, uplift, or support. You can dress it up in all sorts of good looking, well attired ways. You can mask it with all sorts of subtle gestures of collaboration, but something in our bodies know when it’s the water we’re swimming in.
Echo knew it too.
As the fancy pants gear was tucked away, she was given choice, a true voice, and a safe place to live with a herd (not just another group of rotating horses), her courageous, strong, kind leader showed her face.
When my dominance over her took a back seat in the bus and together we quietly fanned a tender flame of deep communion, connection, and mutual regard, a completely different type of leadership emerged from and between us.
We’re on a mission to find out if that’s true for more of us. We have a hunch it is.
*- The Science of Women’s Leadership | Alexis Kanda-Olmstead
**- Bentley University, 2017 CWB Multigenerational Impacts on the Workplace Report