A syndrome: sometimes the cause of problems is unknown, but the regular merging of signs is so striking that they are grouped into a syndrome.

How is it possible that so many leadership training courses are being given and that people still need or want to be trained and coached in leadership? Leadership, you cannot visit LinkedIn and other social networks without encountering an article about leadership. The best names, such as “servant leadership” (Greanleaf), “mindfulness, selflessness & compassion (Hougaard), transformational leadership (Bass / Riggio), you name it. Many coaches and horse coaches also focus on the theme of leadership as if leadership is for sale.


In the meantime, the world is turning and looking for leadership. Searching but not seeing … How is that possible? Why all these efforts? Why so many textbooks, training, courses, coaching and horse coaching?     
For one thing, in modern society we receive constant incentives to belong. Belonging to it, a basic necessity of people. People lose leadership as a result. Society responds to that. A new need arises, that for leadership. But who really sees, what’s going on? While society is leading people away from true leadership, beautiful theories, training methods, (horse) coaching with even more beautiful names, tell you what to learn, how to think, how to behave.             
Is there some wisdom in all those offers, if we keep buying, reading and following training? Is there wisdom about leadership in the horses or their herd? Do we really need all those things, or do we just not see where it is, and find ourselves in a never ending quest?    

Genesys, a great and strong grey horse. A beautiful large Belgian warm-blooded horse, with impressive pedigree. Traumatized by being taken away from his mother too early. Once had an accident while loading the trailer, in which the thorn protrusions of his withers were broken. Unmanageable for many by his behaviour, biting, prancing, even labelled dangerous. Not to handle, let alone to ride. For more than two years a horse rescue foundation took care of him. No suitable owner seemed to be found.

My first introduction is completely different. Almost looking like an easy, timid pony, he is standing in the meadow, to me looking sad and misunderstood.

He is welcome at my place, but if they want to bring him there, it is a completely different horse. Wild, scaffolding, kicking and roaring during trailer loading…. And then he stands with me in the meadow. Not in a stable, just between the ponies. He seems to look around wondering what happened to him, distrustful of his surroundings. But so beautiful, so much power, so much willingness to be there, to organize a place in the herd, to manifest himself….

I could tell for hours about how I trained with him, touching, giving love and warmth, leading and lead training exercises to give him confidence. I hang around his neck between his forelegs while he was prancing (the only place where you are safe if you don’t want to stand many meters away). Not to control him, but to make him feel that I am there. There for him, in his trauma, his uncertainty. Not for dominance, but for the will to free him from that restrictive behaviour, from the limitations that he imposes on himself by his fear. His survival strategy in difficult situations. Not failing him, let him feel that he can be there, proud of who he is. But that I may be his leader. With respect for who he is, his traumas … Giving confidence, offering confidence ..

Have you ever read this in a management book, heard on a course or during a coaching? What I did was to fill the void, the trauma left, intuitively, close to his heart. No tricks, no thinking, no acquired skills. Only act, act from seeing what there is! Filling an emptiness, arising from his trauma. A void that had filled itself with a survival strategy and could now be filled with given confidence and accepted leadership as an answer.

Within two weeks I was able to ride him, unsaddled, no halter. Later also with saddle and halter. What a moment, those first laps on that powerful back. Feeling that I am accepted, that I am allowed to be his leader. Have taken leadership in our relationship. Have gained leadership in the collaboration.

Genesys, he can make you feel where you are standing in your leadership. If you are not authentic but only do things that you have read, or that you have trained, you will not get anywhere with him. Then he can even be dangerous. Intolerant of inauthenticity. But is that not the case with everyone, who is confronted with people who claim to be the leader. You might ask yourself, if you can claim leadership or if it is given to you? Dare you test your leadership in front of Genesys?

Leadership. It is not about learning with your head, about learning competencies and skills. Leadership is within you. As soon as you see that, you can see what is going on with your followers. If you lead with your head, tricks and learned actions, learned compassion, attitude, then you don’t see your followers. And they don’t see you. Then you do not see what limits them in their functioning. You will only see the symptoms. Then you don’t see their power, their possibilities. Then you see only trauma, only unmanageability.

If you discover your way to see it, all that other learned stuff won’t work. And they will see that! Look at what is going on! Time and time again we are sent on a course, we buy expensive education and training, we read books, we are being coached or we watch YouTube videos. Time after time.

And that while you can ride, unhaltered and unsaddled …

If you actually see, then immediately you only can  act on it from your leadership and you will lead your followers in their own strength.

And that is often the case. I am reminded of an entrepreneur. Hard working, many initiatives, but it doesn’t really work. At first his actions look successful  but eventually many of them fail. He fires people, hires others, better educated, better experience and yet…. It does not work. The results are lagging behind, physical complaints are coming. He doesn’t see it anymore. He doesn’t see it ….

He does not see that he wanted so badly to be seen by his father. That all his decisions, all his actions, have the motive: to be seen. That his survival strategy, his lifestyle and his business operations are based on that principle. The urge to be seen by his father .. What can’t he see in himself? What could his father have seen in him?

Do you want to see?

Prancing, biting, kicking. Skills burdened with what he does not want to see. His deep pain, the pain to be seen by his father.

Every act in his company has this deepest motive. That is why he should want to see, get to work on his skills, and disconnect his actions from that motive. To free his company from this entrapment, these unconscious goals. Then the unseen entrapment disappears. Then space is created for one’s own strength, and leadership and the inspiration of his company comes into a different light. That light that shows all you can see outside the shadow of the burdens you carry, unknowingly, unseen. As long as you don’t want to see that, you will keep focusing on external factors, you will keep following courses, hire other people, and you will never get to the point….

If you really want to see, take the scales off your eyes.  Scales: all the burdens of everything that you carry with you and that stands in the way of your leadership. Burdens that works against your leadership. Burdens that makes your life harder. That makes leadership hard work. You need unburdened skills, skills that are not burdened with old “shit”. Skills you often already have, but are still burdened, often unseen.   
Do you see a prancing horse, or do you see that place between those forelegs where you can hang around the horse’s neck to free the skills from the entrapment.

It depends on what you want (and dare) to see. To be continued….

Jan-Ide van Helden
D-Ranch Leaders & Company