How Leaders Can Enjoy the Ride

by | Oct 27, 2023 | Blog

Enjoy the ride, but be ready to correct when needed.

I spent time with Sage Executive Coaches the other day. They do a lot of their leadership work on the back of a horse. On my ride I re-learned one very important leadership lesson: Enjoy the ride, but be ready to correct when needed. 

For most of the trail ride my horse (Duke) just knew the way to go. My job – enjoy the ride, don’t get in the way, allow Duke to do his work. 

At one point along the ride though, Duke wanted to go in a different direction. I had two choices… A) let the 1,000 lb animal just do what he wants, or B) provide gentle yet forceful and positive leadership to keep Duke heading the way I needed him to go.

I exerted my leadership through controlling the reins, using my legs, and a strong positive voice to coach him to go in the right direction. He quickly responded – Duke’s a great horse. We finished the ride together, accomplishing the mission.

While on my ride I reflected that working with a sports team or a business team can be similar to working with a horse. For the most part, as long as the horse (and team) are heading in the right direction the leader can simply ride along providing encouragement and enjoy the experience. However, when the horse (and team) starts moving in a direction the leader knows isn’t right, the leader must exert leadership to move the horse (and team) in the right direction. 

Some horses (and teams) require just a little adjustment – like Duke… he didn’t need much to keep him moving in the right direction. On the other hand, some horses (and teams) need a strong voice, a strong physical presence of the leader to help make adjustments, hard decisions, and provide the right coaching signals to the horse (and team) so they can have success.

Leaders are important. It’s not a popular thing to tell leaders they do have to exert authority or control at times, and yet, it is a reality. Horses (and teams and organizations) will never reach their full potential or accomplish their mission without guiding leadership. While most of the time leaders of teams simply get to enjoy the ride with a great team, there are times when leading people means you have to be willing to exert authority and direct a change at the right time in order to keep the team on track. 

I am grateful for my friend Taylor Flake who took me on this ride. Taylor is a retired PepsiCo executive and now runs Sage Executive Consulting. He is a world-class executive coach and leadership developer. He provides one of the most innovative and enjoyable approaches to learning how to become a better leader that I’ve seen. Within a short time I had half a dozen new insights and felt a positive energy and strengthened confidence to take to my leadership roles. 

Taylor also writes an amazing blog: You can learn more at


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If you would like to learn more about leading people check out my book, From Semper Fi to Just Do It.

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Article Written by Dr. Gordon Whitehead

Founder of Leaders247

Gordon Whitehead is the founder of Leaders247 and specializes in leadership and organizational development with a particular interest in helping emerging leaders accelerate their leadership growth.

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