A veteran educator in the field of leadership development, June Gunter, Ed.D., was not a very troubling trend. According to Gunter, the word "lead" has become the latest four-letter word. Being in the field of leadership development for the past 20 years she observed a growing pattern where the people with the character to lead were saying no to the job. When Gunter asked former leaders why they had chosen to leave leadership positions that they said it was because the job was consuming, thankless, and not worth the sacrifices they had to make in their personal and family lives. It was hard for her to keep motivating them to lead. Because of Gunter's own experience, she agreed with them. Compelled to find a new source of hope for herself and her clients, Gunter set out on a mission to find a new model of leadership that would re-inspire people to become the leaders their communities desire. Much to her surprise, she found this new model of leadership on the back of a horse.
In 2004, Gunter founded an organization named TeachingHorse that provides experiential learning and leadership development with horses. Working with horses, leaders learn how to remain calm and confident in the face of uncertainty, how to communicate with authenticity, and how to create strong partnerships. All the horse activities take place with people on the ground and no horse experience is necessary. The foundation of TeachingHorse is a model of leadership Gunter referes to as MareWisdom that was developed in the course of her lifelong relationship with horses and a study of their herd dynamics.
From ballrooms to boardrooms to barns all across the country, June Gunter is bringing fresh ideas about how to lead our businesses, our families, and our own lives in ways that create healthy sustainable communities. With a no-nonsense style and a dry sense of humor sprinkled with an authentic Southern accent, this classic cowgirl with a doctorate in education is taking some of the traditional thinking about leadership and turning it upside down.
The MareWisdom model answers the question, "What do horses know about leadership?" For a herd to place their trust in a lead mare, she must demonstrate four capabilities. The lead mare must be paying attention and able to detect even the most minor changes in the environment. The lead mare must give them clear direction on where to go next. The lead mare must be able to follow that direction with focused energy, providing the herd with guidance on the pace (ie, walk, trot, canter) with which to respond to those changes. The lead mare must also show the congruence of her inner and outer expression. You do not have to wonder what she is thinking, her body language tells you and she never lies. Ultimately, the herd must know the lead mare has their best interest as her sole source of motivation at all times.
Attention. Direction. Energy. Congruence. When a lead mare demonstrates these capabilities, the herd becomes confident in her leadership. According to Gunter, "The bottom line is that confidence in the lead mare makes the herd agile in times of change. To adapt. People do not follow a direction, they follow you, and only if they are confident in your leadership. "
Test your MareWisdom by answering the following questions. What is your marketplace, community, staff and family trying to tell you? What is the direction you want to take and is the direction clear to those around you? Is your energy compiling and aligned with your direction? If not, why not? What does your authentic voice want to say and where do you need to let that voice speak for you?
Even with a new model of leadership, the question remains, what will make the life of a leader sustainable? How do we get beyond the clichés that it is lonely at the top and there is no rest for the weary? Gunter recalls a substantial leadership lesson from her lead mare, Yani. "When the lead mare of this herd is tired, she rests." A trusted member of the herd steps forward as her backup and others form a wall of protection around her. And why do the herd members watch over their resting leader? Because, creating A sustainable life for the leader creates a sustainable life for the community and gives them agility when they need it the most.