Natural Leadership – Leadership inspired by Nature

Posted on: December 10, 2013 by Marianne Hewlett

Atos - Natural Leadership – Leadership inspired by Nature - Marianne HewlettHyper-connected, collaborative environments demand a new leadership style

Are you a leader, do you have leadership qualities or are you leading a team? It may all sound the same, but there is a slight distinction between a “leader”, “leadership” and “leading”. For instance, you can have formally appointed leaders who do not have real leadership skills. Leadership is related to a person’s skills and degree of influence, and can often be found in people who are not formal leaders.

In the emerging, hyper-connected and collaborative business environment, there is a need for a new type of leadership. Old command and control styles from leaders who assume they have influence simply because they are the boss, will no longer work in what is fast becoming an increasingly collaborative and transparent work environment. Instead, there is a need for leaders who can create working environments in which people want to belong. This demands a different set of skills that includes communicating, interacting and managing relationships within an organization, network or social system.

In fact, we are all leaders at some point in our careers or personal lives. There will always be tasks or situations where you will take the lead, simply because you are the best person to solve a problem, or the family member who takes control of a particular personal matter. As social beings we all have natural leadership skills, but are often not aware of it, sometimes because it’s buried under layers of conventional management training.

What is Natural Leadership?

  • You lead from a basis of authenticity, trust and respect instead of a formal role and control
  • You balance your head, heart, body and spirit
  • You overcome your limiting beliefs and connect to your true potential
  • You lead in the here and now, which is reflected in ease, flow and connection instead of effort and expenditure of energy.
  • You create mutual beneficial situations and joint goals
  • You have the power to influence your circumstances and not to rely on external factors

When you align your knowledge, skills, attitudes and mental models and stay true to yourself, you connect to your true potential and the Natural Leader within you.

A few months ago I attended a Natural Leadership workshop organized by LIGHTHORSE, a unique training center in the Netherlands. Why unique? Well, my coach turned out to be…..a horse!

Why Horses?

Horses are non-judgmental, honest mirrors, which give us direct feedback in every situation. They live in a herd with clear leadership, each having a distinct role and position in the hierarchy. As humans we have similar group structures to horses and can learn a lot from their group dynamics and leadership style. For their survival, horses are very sensitive and social animals, able to notice the slightest inconsistency in their environment. Therefore, they mirror back to us inconsistent behaviors we may not have been aware of; behaviors that stop us from being effective, reaching our desired results, moving forward in life or delving deeper into our own authenticity.

Horses sense and respond to a person’s intentions, emotions and thoughts that are expressed subconsciously through body language. If you are not authentic and don’t believe in the message you are trying to communicate, your voice and your body language will show. Trying to convince a horse to leave the comfort of the herd and follow you will be impossible if your heart and soul is not in it. Now try and imagine your team’s reaction. Would they follow you if you are not convinced yourself?

Sessions with horses are highly interactive and provide instant learning experiences that are difficult to acquire in more traditional settings. Furthermore, being outside in nature and engaging with it, helps us to connect to our true selves. Inner state equals outer state; inner nature equals outer nature.

The Natural Leadership Workshop – how to move a horse

Sandra Geisler, the Managing Director of LIGHTHORSE has developed a coaching model that allows participants to become a Natural Leader and reach their goals and desired situations through 3 steps:

  1. Recognize the limiting pattern: After you have defined your learning goal and your desired result for a specific situation you will do an exercise with horses. This exercise symbolizes the defined goal.
  2. Break the old pattern: Recognize your limiting patterns and beliefs and the impact they have on your behavior during the interaction with the horse. The feedback from the horse and your coach gives insights in the way mental models and emotions interfere in behaving effectively and achieving your desired results.
  3. Natural leadership: achieve your desired results. You will experience how you can break through limiting patterns and what you need to develop further in order to achieve your goals. You experiment and practice with this new behavior and learn how you can apply it in your day to day life.


A tremendous confidence boost comes from reaching your goals with ease and flow and learning how to lead and connect confidently with a 500kg animal. It is certainly a wonderful experience!


Image Source: copyright Lighthorse

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About Marianne Hewlett
Senior Vice President and member of the Scientific Community
Marianne Hewlett is a Senior Vice President at Atos and a seasoned marketeer and communications expert. Passionate about connecting people, technology and business, she is a member of the Atos Scientific Community where she explores the Future of Work and the impact of technology on individuals, organizations and society. She is a strong ambassador for diversity and inclusivity – and particularly encourages female talent to pursue a career in IT – as she believes a diverse and happy workforce is a key driver for business success. As an ambassador for the company’s global transformation program Wellbeing@work, she explores new technologies and ways of working that address the needs of current and future generations of employees. A storyteller at heart, she writes about the human side of business and technology and posts include insights into the future of work, the science of happiness, and how wellbeing and diversity can drive success.

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