The pace of personal growth is directly related to the ability to apply lessons learned in one area of living to as many others as fitting and as time permits. These are the “aha” moments or personal victories, the magical moments where an area of limitation is overcoming, where frustration gives way to satisfaction.
I’ve been pouring over an insightful and well-written book on horseback riding called Reflections on Riding and Jumping by William Steinkraus and I cannot help but mark the passages that stand out to me most in this reading, while zooming out and drawing parallels to other fields of activity in which I feel privileged to work.
Today’s realization applies neatly to the business of management, particularly human resources, though I am sure you’ll see other applications in your field of responsibility that are equally if not more valuable and meaningful. Steinkraus advises that horsemen must never forget the fact that horses are always bigger and more powerful than we are (as is the larger team in relation to its manager). As such, we must find subtle and creative ways to gain dominion over its strength and might, lest we succumb to the temptation to dominate it through force or coarser strategies.
Steinkraus describes this beautifully in chapter five:
In all of this, you must remember that the horse is your partner. Of course, there are all sorts of partnerships, some quite equal, others involving a considerable degree of domination by one of the partners. But it is important for the horse to always retain a sense of its own volition and spirit; if you dominate it to the point that it becomes only a prisoner, and cannot freely give itself to you, you will never get the best of which it is capable. In other words, if you can’t get the horse to accept and enjoy its relationship with you, and to accept the mechanisms through which you communicate with it, then those measures aren’t any good in the final analysis, no matter how effective they may seem for a while. I’ve seen a lot of horses that have been bullied by their riders and made to do everything through strength, coercion and the threat of pain. Their riders often brag about their accomplishments and all the things they can make their horses do. In the end, however, if the horse can’t learn to like it, their riders’ accomplishments are illusory and temporary, because the horse will always get the last word. Sometimes the word is funny, sometimes tragic (some riders aren’t aware of what they’ve done until the horse “comes up empty,” if then); but the horse will get the last word, even so.
This approach applies as much in the boardroom and classroom as it does the riding ring. Sure you can gain a measure of control by forced compliance, but if those for whom you are responsible do not share their powers with you out of love and respect, the relationship will be neither lasting nor satisfying.