The Leader on a Pony
A few leaders possess wide bands of competence and giftedness. You probably don’t.
Your high horse is a pony, at best.
You possess a narrow band of giftedness. In the middle, you have a wide range of average competencies. However, compared to the list of possible skills and gifts that humans possess, yours are a drop in a bucket.
When you’re “the leader on the white horse,” …
- Fault for failure lies with others. After all, how could you be wrong?
- Ownership by others is low. You’re the one at the center.
- Talent in others is devalued. When you’re the most important person, others aren’t.
- Respect turns to deference.
- Deference turns to neglect.
- Neglect turns to disaster.
Leaders “on white horses,” give themselves permission to dominate others. Talented people enjoy focus. They don’t enjoy being told what to do.
You don’t have to be superior to be gifted.
When you’re “the leader on a pony”…
- Talent in others is valued and honored.
- Authority is divested and distributed.
- Accountability flows up and down the organizational structure.
- Decisions take longer. Ownership is higher.
- You’re valued for your ability to maximize others.
- Recognition – the spotlight – widens.
- Respect is earned, not granted.
10 ways to get off your white horse:
- Evaluate yourself by how well you develop and maximize talent in others.
- Clarify, don’t abdicate, your role in organizational life.
- Eliminate perks and special privileges.
- Push authority and decision-making to people closest to the action.
- Begin asking, “What do you think we should do?”
- Learn and leverage coaching skills.
- Stay connected. Manage by wandering around. (MBWA)
- Say, “Thank you,” everywhere you go.
- Seek feedback, specifically and actively.
- Own your mistakes and share what you’re learning.
Boldness requires clarity and belief. Be clear on your role. Believe in your team.
How might leaders address the problem and opportunity of “the leader on a white horse?”
I’m delighted to partner with Clarity Development Consulting to offer the proven “Coaching for Engagement” program. Drop me an email if you’d like to explore having Bob Hancox and me come to your organization to develop the coaching skills of your team.
Dan, very practical and applicable, this could even be measurable for 2016. Does cause me to wonder if Chip Kelly would enjoy this post!
Thanks Scott. Chip sure has a bad reputation when it comes to building relationships with people. Maybe a pony would help? 🙂
FYI, ponies are often much more stubborn and difficult to ride than horses. To lead on a pony means treating the pony with kindness, and convincing the pony he or she WANTS to go that direction at that speed. Otherwise, you may find yourself trying to lead while lying flat on the ground after the pony has chosen to go on without you. It can be a humbling experience, perfect for someone used to being on the white horse.
Thanks Jane. That’s too funny. Maybe leaders shouldn’t ride any type of four legged animal. Maybe walking is best… 🙂
Not agree. Discipline gaps you are talking for. Such situations are reasons for failure or crisis. eliminate them or change the model.
Thanks so much, Vinay.
MBWA can be incredibly valuable if you remember to be observant and open/engaging with those you encounter. It means putting away the smartphone–you can’t make eye contact when texting/checking emails.
Thanks Ann. I’m so glad you added some insight to MBWA. It doesn’t help to walk around with your head down. 🙂
So many leaders tend to forget MBWA and the impact it can have on the morale of a team, especially when leaders do not physically sit with their teams. I recently heard someone say that they have never seen one of our leaders, only engaged with him on email. This saddens me. in our hyper digital work environments, the importance of real contact can be forgotten. It’s a lot easier to criticize and lord over others via text and email.
Dan in keeping with the holiday spirit, in the famous movie White Christmas, Bing Crosby says to his romantic interest Rosemary Clooney, “it is awfully scary being the Knight on the white horse!”
Sadly many Leaders are afraid of falling and thus do not focus on Leading!
Happy New Year
Ponies, and herding cats and frogs. Funny stuff that cuts pretty true.
There are also the slugs and snails of leadership. It goes something like this:
A slug is rushed to the hospital by the snail, where he regains consciousness. Asked about what caused the problem, he says,
” I don’t know. The snail and I were going to a meeting. It all happened so fast…”
Organizational change does have casualties, and it does generally suffer from perspective and reality.
There is also the thing about ponies and perspective and those leadership guys thinking they are the ones wearing the white hats!
Dan, Wishing you a happy new year to you.
What is white or brown , are we playing black and white game of chase or do we need more martin luther kings who can fight for favouritism in organisation.
Or Britishers are back , on the basis of trade of spices or at some other reasons would like to remind us game of chess. you are ten ways are really classy.
Go through all comments , are we not setting in this blog a kind of PERCEPTION.
you wrote a blog on health of development of organizations or people but people in your blog are talking for or discussing something different.
Where is the problem or more precisely what is problem or who is the problem.
Once again game of brown or white started , 100 percent marks to your blog but perception is very dangerous thing.
Needs correction on mental health of leaders or exactly on mentally derived action as per Kouzes and posner like “ENABLE ACTS TO OTHERS” or “CHALLENGE THE PROCESS”.
White or black pony are available in all organizations but GEORGE WASHIGTONS are not available.
MENTAL HEALTH of Leaders or said leaders precisely proportionate to Mentally derived unbiased approach to all means explain or explore.
Can I say, regardless of the topic, you continue to write some amazing and insightful things.
Thank you for the gems you put out everyday. They are appreciated, read and pondered over with great thought. The best you you in 2016! Looking forward to it. 🙂
Nancy , appreciated but This is not no like this. I keep challenging every thought. This is not regardless to topics or topic. My simple understanding is that ” Change is constant” not staled and following is good but without thought process, it is dangerous. Even I have full regards to your opinion. Recently I have challenged entire leadership model of my organization, very appreciated me and few still thinking ” He is a mad man” but still I am with myself , strongly
Please think what i am trying to say .
Please give me few more months or years (1-2) , I will present my Leadership models to this world and will be remembered till dooms day.
He is not on a white horse,its a zebra he only see’s black & white!!
Give reasons. Or keep throwing stones in black hole.
So much hue and cry with reactions. Response zerooooooo.
Any reasons Mrs. Lorraine or busy with zebra or pony or horse like faded reactions.
Response important not mouthing.
Concentrate on good ones will get good ones or learn from Dan always responded in a suffice manner.
I am concerned to him , none else
Wonderful! “He is not on a white horse,its a zebra he only see’s black & white!!” I like this word so much.
And you neither horse or nor zebra. Mixed of ungrateful followers. Now choose are mixed one or still uncovered pony with scales
Got answer. Be mum it’s better for you
Unfortunately there are many leaders on white horses than on a pony. This has created a cloud around teams leading to disaster.
Agree. Thanks subramanian
Dan and everyone that has made comments!
Excellent article and very thought provocative.
To ride the White Horse or the Pony depends on the position or circumstances that you or others have placed you in.
The individual(s) or make up of the group(s) needs and wants also should be determined before you either ride the White Horse or the Pony to maximize the results of both individuals and members of the group(s).
What an extraordinary post!
All of us play a role that’s important to the production. Whether you have more lines or are in control of the lighting, each person contributes to the result. What’s intriguing is to see who is riding these horses. I have found it may be the “boss” but it also may be someone else, without position, but holding an attitude that is the equivalent.
Thanks Skip. I trust you are well.
Interesting how you think about horse riders outside typical organizational lines. As I think about it, you are so right. I’ve known many people who didn’t have a title but road around on high horses. Fascinating.