I worked for Nokia, in charge of a 300 strong department. On the surface things looked great. I enjoyed my work, I enjoyed the challenge. But beneath the professional, competent and confident facade I presented, anxiety pulsated through every vein in my body.
I had just gone through a painful divorce and Nokia was going through an intense period of change. In 2001 my job was made obsolete; my next move wasn't up the corporate ladder, but down and along.
And then when I thought things couldn't get any tougher they did. My mother, the person who I had always been close to, my confidante when times were tough, was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
My smile might not have changed but inside I was becoming increasingly fragmented. Winnie, my third horse, sensed it and it made him nervous. The harder I tried to put a brave face on things the worse he became. Pushing, shoving, barging past me, anything to keep me away from him. Winnie my one bolt-hole had joined my growing list of worries.
The Path Less Travelled
I had started my training as a Body Psychotherapist in Cambridge in 2002. Partly in response to what had happened at Nokia, but mainly because of what was happening in my personal life.
Body Psychotherapy places great importance on embodied self-awareness, the ability to be with and examine your own emotions. If I was going to improve Winnie's behaviour and my lot I needed to apply this new learning. I needed to bring the real me along - grief and all.
And when I did;
Winnie's behaviour improved. Should I have been surprised? Not really.
Winnie wasn't about to follow a leader who couldn't lead herself. Winnie held up a mirror to the authentic me, all I had to do was look. It was a revelation.
I had seen the same thing in the workplace: the masks, the manipulation, the response to leaders who lacked authenticity.
My horse had saved my life. Not by being there to help me escape on long rides as I had hoped. But by enabling me to see and be with my emotions, own them and grow from them and to become my own leader.
I wondered: what would have happened if I'd been able to apply this learning to past jobs, to the strategies, the leadership development programmes and team building initiatives? What then?
The dots were there to be joined. All I needed to do was join them.
I wanted to find out more about horses, how they communicated and what made them tick. Time to take a trip to the USA and the remote ranch at Pagosa Springs Colorado, training ground for Parelli's groundbreaking work on Natural Horsemanship.