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Transferable Leader

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Dear Sally
Weekly Advice Straight From The Horse’s Mouth.

Dear Sally,

What are the most transferable parenting lessons you apply when leading at work?

Dear Transferable Leader,

The root of the word discipline comes discipulus which means learner or pupil. Did you know that horses know latin? We do! Okay…we do not. But one of my human friends shared this etymology with me and I was grateful to hear that at some point humans did understand that discipline was actually about learning and not so much about punishment. In the herd, discipline is a loving and protective act. Teaching our youngsters how to survive and thrive in the herd is the most caring thing we can do for them. Teaching other horses how we wish to be treated helps them to understand who we are, what we like, what we don’t like, and how best to relate with us to have a healthy and peaceful relationship.

We need peace in our herd because we need our collective unit. We are safer as a group because we are prey animals. We haven’t forgotten our place on the food chain and we really need to stay together! Did you know that YOU all need each other too? It’s more obvious in family situations, but guess what? Your team is your “work family” and you need each other too! You have to learn from each other. And it takes discipline. So, boundaries, feedback, communication, and structure are all behaviors that fall under the category of discipline. Whether you are interacting with a boss or a direct report, all relationships need discipline. We have to communicate and learn from each other in order to have a healthy culture or community. When you think about it from a survival standpoint and see those harder parts of relationships as loving and caring, it can make it easier to do that heavy lifting. Consider that discipline is truly about learning. So, you can teach your colleagues the same way you would your child: with love and because it matters.

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In thinking about your leadership positions at work, consider yourself a mentor to those around you. Lead by example and inspire others to want to learn from you. Wisdom and grace and stability are huge attractors. You’ll see those regal members of horse and human herds who command respect just by way of being comfortable in their own skin. As a parent, keeping your cool in times of stress and not being pulled into others’ drama can make or break your leadership. Just imagine a toddler throwing himself on the ground in a tantrum. The parent who is able to breathe and stay balanced during this episode will likely be able to efficiently guide the child through his difficult emotions. This couldn’t be truer in a workplace setting. You’ll see that the more you can focus on your emotional leadership, the more groups will cluster around you for safety and peace. We can feel the stability of a healthy nervous system and we will gravitate to it to regulate ourselves.

Most of all, transferable parent, be real with the adults in your life. Children love a parent who is willing to admit she’s wrong, who will share stories of mistakes and failures, who is vulnerable and open. It turns out, adults love this kind of genuineness too. Authentic leadership isn’t about portraying some polished version of your humanness. It’s about a willingness to be tuned in to the reality of any given moment and to respond to it with clarity and as much calmness and reason as possible.

Love, Sally