What can a horse teach you about leadership?

Workshop with horses

If I recall correctly, almost none of the students of my year knew back in 2008 what they would do after their studies. Most of us were ambitious and eager to join the workforce. Some went travelling first. A smart decision in hindsight, because landing a job hasn’t been the easiest thing to achieve since the crisis that hit in 2008.

My case wasn’t any different from others. I got lucky in my master’s year in Strategic Marketing when I was approached by the Student Service Centre who called me to offer me an internship at AMI Consultancy. I suited up, prepared myself for the interview and got the job. Yes, it turned out to be a job instead of an internship! So happy me!

And a cool job at that: I became the junior consultant in charge of the project “Strategic Innovation” (“Strategisch Innoveren”). A project designed and managed by UNU-MERIT, a research institute of Maastricht University. The goal of the project was to engage with SMEs in Limburg in two strategic sessions in order to gather information on their innovation capabilities and to give them an entrepreneurial boost in a short time period.

Two years later my contract at AMI came to an end and I became unemployed. Wow, now what?Pretty soon I met an entrepreneur who offered me a job in marketing. He encouraged me to take a training in consciousness development offered by a coaching company called Creative Consciousness. This changed my life immensely. For the better.

A horse doesn’t lie

I found the courage to start my own company, which I called ZZIN. My vision is to co-create a world with healthy and happy people who are successful at work and in private life. To get there, I support entrepreneurs in generating massive success in business and private by means of Consciousness Coaching(r), and by organising Energy-Boost sessions where small groups of entrepreneurs gather to get new inspiration and energy.

I co-created one of these sessions with Divine Stars, a company that uses horses to coach people by putting them in a large ring/closed circle with a horse. Magical things happen!

Believe me, I experienced it myself. A horse is always present, in the here and now. It doesn’t know how to lie, and it is fully authentic in all places at all times. It mirrors our behaviour, no more no less. It senses the smallest thing in us human beings and it responds to that. Completely honest, without pretence.

Jerome van Zeijl

During a typical session, one by one the participants join the horse of their choice in the ring and are asked by a coach to (try to) carry out some assignments. Such as: “Get the horse to follow you.” Funny stuff!

The horse reacts and mirrors the participants’ behaviour, and this creates food for reflection and for questions. The result: much laughter, surge of emotions, new learnings, reflection, in-your-face insights. It’s a magical and unforgettable experience!

One of the participants, Mieke Beurskens, from Zowie Coaching & Training, gave the following testimonial about her learnings:

“The horse mirroring session I took with Zzin and Divine Stars last summer completely changed the way I deal with my coaching clients. Before the session with the horse Apollo, I somehow believed good results would come if only my client and I were committed enough. Apollo, however, showed me that results can only be achieved once a true trustful heart-to-heart connection has been established and that working together that way provides a lot of fun and flow. Ever since then, I have opened up my heart much more, also in the initial stages of a professional relationship. Leadership does not have to be authoritative. Authentic connection and providing space for each other do the job perfectly.”

This horse workshop was a bullseye shot, and since then I encountered several business partners with whom I organise inspirational sessions. The next one is in mid-April 2014, a combination of cooking and coaching. Entrepreneurs prepare a three-course meal together while Pascale-Renée Cohen (one of my business partners) and I coach them to get in touch with their deeper dreams and desires. Our role is to support them to pursue these. My life mission is to support others to pursue whatever they desire.

By Jerôme Van Zeijl

About Jerôme Van Zeijl: I’m the father of Roan, my five-month old son. Life enjoyer, inspirationist, business coach and trainer.

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