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Sunday, 2 February 2014

Consensual Leadership - Way of the Horse

Way of the Horse by Linda Kohanov & Kim McElroy, 2007
31st of January was Chinese New Year, and 2014 is the Year of the Horse. I'm taking that as a good reason to use the oracle Way of the Horse a lot this year, starting with a one-card draw asking for my 'Card of the Year'. I drew a card called 'The Herd'.

This card explores the complicated and ever-changing dynamics of leadership within the herd. According to the companion book, horses do not have one constant leader, but the alpha role switches from horse to horse according to the situation at hand. 'In these equine communities,' Lina Kohanov writes, 'what an individual knows about, what he cares about, or what he's calm about determines leadership, as all members have some talent, drive, or experience the others value or, at times, defer to. ...Consensual leadership draws on the wisdom of sentience of the entire herd. It is, to a great extent, improvisational. ' The key phrases assigned to this card are 'Authentic Community', 'Consensual Leadership' and 'Balancing Individual and Group Needs'.

The sun beams down out of the clouds at a black horse standing a bit off from the herd to the left of the card. He is the usual leader of the herd, but in this card he has dropped back and other horses are leading. They are on the move, so perhaps leadership has naturally transferred to an older, more sure horse who has knowledge of the terrain. Our black horse will defer to his knowledge, let him (or her) take the lead. He becomes part of the followers.

The dynamics of the herd are like that. Fluid, depending on the situation.

I can see many applications of this advice in my life. First, I need to recognize the many communities I belong to, and examine my notions about my place in them. My position in any of the groups should be fluid. I should not always expect others to listen to everything I say, and neither should I always silently follow. I don't have to always be right. But I don't have to always keep my opinions to myself, either. There will be times when I may find myself suddenly being looked to as a leader, when suddenly people are waiting for me to make a decision, show a way forward. And there will also be times when I will need to defer to others, not be too headstrong.

There's another aspect of the card, 'Balancing Individual and Group Needs' -- the card I've drawn reminds me that I must always be aware that I am in a group. I am always part of a group. I do not lose myself in the group, but neither am I ever truly outside of a group. 'No man is an island, entire of itself,' as John Donne wrote.

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