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The Art of Leadership and the Art of Horsemanship
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The Art of Leadership and
the Art of Horsemanship

The rediscovery of an immaterial cultural heritage as a reference framework for agile leadership in the age of digitalization

For more than one thousand years, leadership and horsemanship had been inextricably linked to each other. In many cultures, the interaction with horses and learning the art of riding had been a natural and integral component in educating and training their leadership elites until the twentieth century. Someone, who managed to lead a powerful stallion with apparent ease, was also attributed the ability to lead people. It was a matter of course then, to use this natural source of unfolding leadership competence in order to develop and train the interaction with a complex creature, the horse, in an action-orientated manner. Today we would refer to it as agile leadership development. Nevertheless, there is hardly a trace left of this in our collective consciousness.

From "industrial leadership" to "digital leadership"

It is quite obvious that very different living conditions and circumstances prevail in modern society, where horses have outlived their original purposes as common means of labour and transportation as well as that of serving as military warhorses. The high degree of networking as well as an increasing digitalization, in virtually all areas of life, are changing existing forms of economy and society in a radical way. Functional leadership and management models, which have well-proven their worth in the twentieth century, are reaching their limits in dealing with complexity and dynamics. We are currently on the threshold of an era, leading from "industrial leadership" to "digital leadership", i.e. from managing rigid "hierarchy silos" to leading agile and dynamic networking systems.

In order to achieve this, a fundamentally different leadership understanding and behaviour will be required. And this, in turn, will have a major impact on shaping an efficient leadership development model, in which greater focus will be placed on personality development, on social and emotional intelligence enhancement as well as on agility. We are experiencing a certain renaissance of leadership development, as it is precisely these qualities that were predominantly focused and emphasized in earlier centuries, and taught by the interaction with horses – "education of the heart" to acquire "nobleness of the heart" was the declared objective then.

The idea: a book project

Inspired by my own, longstanding experience and a study of the Portuguese military, I wish to explore with a book project what agile leadership precisely means and the significance it is accorded to in the wake of digital transformation, which requirements may be derived from this, in terms of leadership competencies, and which role horses may play within the framework of agile leadership development.

I will start my book like a voyage of discovery, with much curiosity, yet allowing for an open end. Aside from a thorough and comprehensive research of the topics of "art of leadership" as well as "art of horsemanship", I will engage in numerous conversations with representatives from most varied social areas, such as e.g. business, politics, culture, military, and cavalry. So, I am looking for renowned leadership personalities with an affinity for horses, who would be willing to enrich this project with their personal view and experience. It is my wish to bring this project to the attention of leadership personalities, who have not yet had any contact to and/or affinity for horses, thus creating an increased curiosity as well as a higher acceptance and attraction in order to then facilitate the transfer of theory to the application of practice in everyday leadership life, not least by means of best practice examples.

What would I like to achieve with this project?

Which target group do I wish to address?

What support am I looking for?

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