Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Time Carl Hester Demonstrated He Has Mastered The 5 Roles of a Master Herder, Part 1

(This blog was originally posted on August 11, 2016)

Me and Linda Kohanov, best-selling author and
founder of Eponaquest Worldwide

Photo Courtesy of Sara Fogan

Last summer, I had the honor of attending a lecture and day-long leadership workshop led by Linda Kohanov, the best-selling author of Tao of Equus and founder of Eponaquest Worldwide. That weekend’s presentation focused on the research and principles she described in her new book titled The Five Roles of a Master Herder: A Revolutionary Model for Socially Intelligent Leadership. I have long been a fan of Ms. Kohanov’s writing and her equine-assisted therapy program, but the information she shared with us about herd leadership and the distinctive roles of an effective herd leader truly rocked my world.

Here is a brief summary of the ideal function/goals of each role, as explained by Linda Kohanov in The Five Roles of a Master Herder: A Revolutionary Model for Socially Intelligent Leadership:
  • Leader: inspires group members to follow his or her example to achieve goals.

  • Dominant: uses “force”—language, techniques, emotion—to get group members to go/do what he or she is asking and stop unproductive behavior

  • Nurturer/Companion: promotes/monitors well-being of other group members

  • Sentinel: Scans the environment so other group members can do their job; also looks for new opportunities for the herd to succeed.

  • Predator: Uses dominant energy to stop/cut/cull unproductive/redundant individuals from the group. Also, offers additional protection to group members and can make tough decisions so the group can continue to survive/thrive.

During her presentation on July 30, 2016, Ms. Kohanov explained how she developed the business-management model of Master Herders from her observations of nomadic herding cultures. According to her observations and research, a Master Herder is able to fluidly negotiate five different roles: Leader, Dominant, Sentinel, Nurturer/Comforter and Predator. Furthermore, a true “master herder” is adept at fluidly utilizing five functions whenever necessary to keep his or her herd or group safe and succeed in various environments and situations. This principle applies whether you are the CEO of a corporation or literally caring for a herd of animals, even if that herd just a herd of two comprised of you and your horse. In both cases, the role of a Master Herder is to keep the “herd” safe as well as to continuously look out for opportunities for future and continued growth and prospects, Ms. Kohanov said. 

For example, sometimes the role is forced on you, such as when no one else in the group wants or is willing to make important decisions and “lead” and inspire colleagues to achieve company goals. In another instance, it may be up to you to play the role of the “heavy” (dominant) and defuse professional quarrels between co-workers or mete out punishment if a deadline is not met. If you are particularly observant about business trends and economic growth or depression, you might find yourself in the role of sentinel—always on the look-out for potential danger or growth. At other times, you may find yourself in a situation where you can barely meet your own expected work quotas because so much of your time is spent reassuring or consoling (nurturer/companion) a colleague who is having personal or professional difficulties. Finally, it may fall to you to fire employees (predator) who do not fulfill work responsibilities.

We have all probably found ourselves in at least one of these roles in our work-place. This model is also applicable in family and general social contexts, such as a mother who comforts and reassures a toddler after scrapes his knee on the playground. However, that role can quickly become dominant when the youngster starts wandering toward the street and Mom shouts at him to stand still before grabbing his arm and pulling him away from the curb and oncoming traffic. And during one of his dressage tests the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Olympian Carl Hester had to simultaneously employ several of these roles to handle his horse when Nip Tuck spooked so they could successfully finish their ride.

I will explain how Hester successfully demonstrated his skills as a “master herder” in my next blog.

Kohanov, Linda. The Five Roles of a Master Herder: A Revolutionary Model for Socially Intelligent Leadership. 2016. Novato, CA: New World Library.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
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