Regularly reading and watching the news makes it hard not to become cynical about current political, business, organizational, sports, and church leaders. People of all stripes are beginning to question and argue what leadership means, the qualities that make an effective leader, and the behaviors that are permissible for leaders. Many are jaded by the term itself, and for good reason……the misuse and misrepresentation of the true meaning of leadership is pervasive in our culture.
I find one of the most alarming misuses of the word leadership is the contention that to be an effective leader you better be bombastic, cold, calculating, distrustful, distant, dishonest, demanding, dominant, offensive, and willing to be a jerk. Again, watching the news it isn’t difficult to see where these distorted perceptions come from. My hope is the current batch of high visibility leaders in our culture merely reflect our twisted view of leadership rather than truly represent good leadership.
Unfortunately, the public appears fascinated with these types of leaders. Though there are many effective leaders who are kind, compassionate, and caring, we tend to remember and glamorize the jerks. Given the allure and skewing toward a perverted view of leadership, where do we look to learn about true leadership? For Christians, the Bible is the most reliable source for examples and understanding of Godly, servant, caring, and selfless leadership. But, the natural order of God’s creation provides countless time tested examples and patterns as well. Nature itself can provide powerful and practical insights into how to lead our organizations.
The Oldest And Most Successful Leadership System
Kelly Wendorf, founder of Equus, a New Mexico based leadership development organization, writes, “The oldest, most successful leadership system today is the horse herd. Fifty-five-million years of remarkable leadership makes horses the most successful mammal on earth.” Why have they thrived? Wendorf says that one reason is because of their leadership culture. Her research and experience reveals that the herd is organized around five core pillars: safety, connection, peace, joy, and freedom. The leader, therefore, is chosen based on his or her ability to maintain these five pillars within the herd system, in self-less care of the whole.
How exactly does a lead horse govern, and keep those five pillars intact? Wendorf asserts it is through two superpowers: care and presence. “Care is the genuine desire to attend to the needs of others. Synonymous with love, care is unconditional love with responsibility. And presence, is the ability to be wholly here in this present moment, in the here and now. Presence enables care to be acutely responsive to the moment, in each moment. Without presence, care can be inaccurate, or ill-timed. Without care, presence can remain abstract. Through this culture of safety, peace, connection, joy and freedom—maintained by care and presence—a natural and dynamic democracy ensues.”
Wendorf further notes, “Like our colorfully jerk leaders in the public arena, gladiator stallions have received a lot of attention because they are flamboyant and dramatic. Leadership qualities have been attributed to their dominant and brutish ways. But they are not the leaders of the herd. They have a specific role to play in specific circumstances, however it’s not in overseeing the daily governance of the herd. In fact, the lead mare or mares will see to it that a badly behaving stallion is exiled from the herd until he can participate inside the clan with good manners.”
Imagine for a moment what our churches, our organizations, our country, and our world would be like if we elected and selected our leaders based on these qualities and principles. What if our leaders were chosen based on their ability to be caring and profoundly present, and their ability to selflessly provide safety, connection, peace, joy and freedom for the whole? No doubt it would be a different world – one more along the lines of how I picture God envisioned when he created it.
This type of leadership is not really that illusive or far-fetched. You don’t need to attend endless seminars, read the current leadership best seller, or watch and model the leadership guru of the moment. You need only observe and embrace the eons of leadership success intrinsic in God’s creation, practically exemplified by the horse herd.
Posted on June 11, 2019