We take a lot for granted in life and, as a result, we often see things only from our chosen perspective. For centuries people have spun the tired old cliche that “you can lead a horse to the water, but you can’t make it drink” to brighten up a story or to highlight the idiocy of an individual or collective of individuals. One of the collective names for horses is ‘a harass of horses’, which is probably on the nose in this case.
So how is the horse in this little story being led? In reality, it’s probably not being guided, mentored or seduced down to the waterhole at all.
What picture plays out in your mind… and have you ever wondered why the horse might not want to drink in the first place?
Then again… why should it? ave you ever been the horse that didn’t drink? Did you have a reason? Perhaps you simply weren’t thirsty?
There are two ways to interpret the moral of the story. You can hear it as a slanderous slight on the poor, illiterate nag that dared to disobey its master. That can work. Or else you can open your mind to the possibility that it is an allegory on leadership that highlights to the audience that people, animals and children (bless them all) have a mind and a will of their own. You can’t just drag them where you want them to go and force them to suck up everything before them like a vacuum cleaner. This is not the level of leadership that corporate and other leaders in the democratic world should aspire to. Such foolhardiness has earned such individuals the right to the branded by the collective name of ‘a company of fools’.
In reality, the horse is most likely always being led by the reins (like it or not) down to the waterhole. Not so much leadership as being willingly pulled–neigh, dragged! Given such a picture one would expect to have lower than 100 percent odds on the outcome being ‘hossie’ enjoying a happy lap of cool, clear H20.
Do you want the horse to dip its head towards the water because you want it to drink for its own benefit and survival… or is it truly optional, just in case it had a bit of a thirst? Or is this little exercise one that serves merely to prove your own mighty leadership… in which case a good starting point would be to first ascertain if the horse is thirsty?
You could call that calculated leadership. Others might call it wise leadership. A thicket of idiots, on the other hand, would probably wonder what all the fuss was about, and give the horse a good old-fashioned crack on its rump.
Quite frankly, I fancy my chances more with a camel, but that’s the tricky thing about leadership. You can’t choose your flock - and seldom do they have the reins around their necks to allow you to reign by force alone.