Herd Behavior: Leadership and Power

Horses, like humans, are social creatures.  Humans who study horse behavior talk a lot about herd behavior and leadership.

Horse trainers, whisperers, cowboys and cowgirls will say you need to be the leader of the horse or the horse will not respect you, but they differ widely in how they define leadership.  Some say there are yin and yang leaders, some differentiate between passive and active leadership.  Some horse behaviorists describe “situational” leadership, in which individual horses “step up” to lead the herd in different situations, such as threat or challenge, while others lead in times of relative calm or stability.

For a human adopting a situational leadership role with a horse, that translates to situational handling, and all intuitive horse people do this intuitively.  They will say you need to be consistent, but if you observe them, they will handle individual horses differently depending on the horse’s mood, conditions, etc..  I call this situational leadership by the human of the horse.

In human society, specifically the United States of American society, the top leadership position in the nation–President–has always been held by a male human and the leadership style is yang, stallion, active, rigid leadership.  American Presidents or candidates for President who have challenged that expectation have been made to suffer.  Al Gore was criticized for being too “girly” what with all his “hand-wringing” about the environment, President George W. Bush had to pretend to be a Texas rancher, Harold Dukakis lost when he cried, and Hillary Clinton was a de facto unsuccessful male because she is female.  The most successful portrayal of a stallion-type leader was President Reagan who acted the part because that is what he was–an actor playing a President.

When Hillary Clinton was confirmed as Secretary of State, her first articulation in that role–she described “smart power”–was “piled on” by the press.  You just know they are going to be on her for the rest of her life.  Her biggest sin?  She dared to step outside her proper role–behind the stallions–and lead in her own way.


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