May 22, 2024

Interview with Jannine Jackson, Founder of Leading Together

Leading Together is a perfect place for growing people and organisations. This is because; at Learning Together you will be guided to find your authentic leadership style. Interestingly they use horses for their workshops and learning is based on emotional intelligence. Recently we interviewed the founder of Leading Together, Jannine Jackson about her journey.

Her ideas are inspiring and motivational. As a female entrepreneur, she shared about the challenges she faced in her entrepreneur journey together with advice to emerging entrepreneurs. Read our interview with Jannine Jackson to find out how she has been successful!

Interview with Jannine Jackson

1. Hello! Can you please tell us about yourself?

I am a woman who has many roles as a CEO, an entrepreneur, a professional fundraiser, a mother, a leadership coach, an equine-assisted learning facilitator, and a horse trainer. 

For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to find a way to help people and somehow make the world a better place.   As a child and young adult, I experienced a lot of personal trauma.  I was bullied as a child.  I didn’t have a stable family upbringing and then in my late teens, I experienced intense grief and loss, losing way too many family members in a very short period of time.  These events helped me in developing an understanding of the importance of compassion.  Everyone has a story and everyone has some trauma that they carry which has shaped the way they look at the world. 

For the last 20 years, I have been living my purpose by working in across a number of leadership roles in the non-profit sector to change lives.  I have been a highly successful change agent growing organisations, often in areas that others thought were too hard. I have won international awards, dined with royalty and Prime Ministers but nothing beats those profound moments where a simple act of kindness can literally save a young life.

I guess on the other side of the coin I have also seen the worst that humankind can offer. The devastation and ripple effect that trauma can cause is also something that intrinsically motivates me.  During my working career, I have also seen extremely toxic workplaces, experienced sexual harassment. I understand the lasting damage that workplace bullying can do, I have seen it cause suicidal thoughts, lead to physical manifestations, and ongoing severe mental health problems.  

These moments have really crystalized what type of leader I am and how I try to influence others to lead.  It is critical to have business acumen holding people accountable for performance and success but we need to see the people working with us not as commodities that are all replaceable but as incredibly valuable human beings.  I believe that everyone is trying to be their best with what they have been given.  It’s simply a matter of uncovering their purpose and finding tools and skills to help them shine. 

So in the last 10 years, I started to bring horses into my life, I think this was my way of trying to heal and feel better.  But what I attracted were horses with issues.  I soon realised that owning a horse with issues is a dangerous proposition and I needed help to find a way to pursue my passion. 

When I started working with a problem horse what I learned was that in order to make him a better horse I needed work on me.  What I accidentally stumbled upon was through training horses I became a better mother, wife, and leader.  I learned how to be patient, remove my judgment, how to be present, be in the moment, reduce my anxiety, start to see the world through their lens.  My empathy, compassion, self-awareness, self-control, what I began to become aware of was I was working on all of my emotional intelligence abilities without realising.  In helping horses I learned how to be a better human.  The more I learned about understanding horses the greater the insights I got about leading people.  And so the journey started. 

2. Why did you decide to launch Leading Together? What inspired you?

I was approached and asked if I could run a horse leadership session for a group of senior corporate executives.  Someone had heard of something similar in the United States and asked me if I could run a session.  “Sure,” I said not knowing that this one session would completely change everything for me and those who attended. 

Then this little idea just took a life of its own.  Before I knew it my first session started with 7 people in the round yard with my horse. 

What I didn’t expect was the most profound learnings for those 7 people.  These are just some of their feedback relating back to their experience and how lasting the change was in them even months later.

I realised that I am always jumping in and being first.  This didn’t allow me any additional time to observation to learn.  In trying to understand how to get it right and be the best at it that I didn’t try and be as present. My focus was on getting it right.  I have been practicing patience and not rushing everything.”

“It was understanding the vulnerability of a close connection and being present with myself.  I learned how to be more self-aware about being present in the room. I left feeling focused and happy, with purpose and lowered the anxiety and the feeling has lasted

“This made me think about how to influence the other decision-makers so they get what’s going on. Thoroughly enjoyed the session.  I had so much energy for days after the session it was so inspiring.”

“Powerful and relatable, giving you the know-how to deal with other people and your team.  My confidence improved as a leader, I have done lots of thinking about the session afterward and still got more days later because it influences how you lead.”

Love it so much there were practical tips on what to do.  I could use straight away.  Being present and how you are feeling in the moment.  Made me understand how to relate your behaviours to moods. Highly recommend it.  It gave me confidence – about being present and shifting my emotions.  I was able to apply the experience immediately and improved confidence”

It’s a bio-feedback mechanism with a horse about your self-efficacy.  My learning from the session was I understood how to be up with intensity but with clear direction and focus.”

“I started with a fear of failure and feeling competitive.  My ego meant I didn’t want to be the person who couldn’t do it.  It was a new and different experience, I don’t have anything to do with horses so was intimidated and scared.  I felt vulnerable and way outside my comfort zone.  The connection I got was so refreshing and a great way to build a shared experience.  It was a completely new context to make the unconscious thoughts into a competence.”

“It was feeling like a pressurised situation where you go to a feeling of threat and try to make it about me. But then learning how to make it not about me and about being in control.  The experience connected a lot of dots and good personal values.  Its things we should be working on every day and when you have mastered it in one situation doesn’t mean you have it secure.” 

“It is an effective coaching and leadership tool.  It improved my relationship with my daughter.  I become more self-aware of my behaviour towards her.  I have been making a conscious effect and our relationship has changed.”

3. Your workshops involve learner-based educational experience with horses. What is the idea behind this concept?

It is honestly the best leadership training available.  Consistently leaders will tell me they learnt more about leadership in a couple of hours with a horse trainer and leadership coach than anything else they have done. 

My insights into why this works so well are as a leader we need to understand how to use our soft skills or our emotional intelligence.  People don’t always tell you the truth they often tell you what you want to hear.  Horses don’t lie.  As prey animals, their senses are heightened and they feedback immediately how you are at that moment.

So as we learn to be present, lead with intent, and use our physicality to relate our messages horses will tell us if we are being congruent or not.  As you learn to relax and lead with confidence horses will engage and reward your behaviour regardless if you are CEO or a 10 year old kid.  Empathy, body language, calm assertive confidence, self awareness, self control and reducing our anxiety are all things we can learn.  These skills are required to motivate and engage and inspire teams but are not taught

It is like a try to be body builder from a text book.  You can read how to be a great body builder but unless you physically lift the weights you are not going to be a body builder.  The same is true for the skills required for leadership.  You can read all the textbooks but unless you experience what it feels like to be empathetic or what it feels like when you are controlling your emotions then you cant master the skill.  Horses are incredible teachers when we are being authentic to ourselves they immediately acknowledge and reward. 

Management and being a boss are different to the skills of being a leader.  We are often taught the practical aspects of our roles and how to manage tasks rather than lead people. 

4. Can you explain the ways you can help your clients?

We teach people to find their authentic leadership style.  So that they can feel confident and comfortable leading others.  It’s about uncovering their own truth and what may be holding them back.  Everyone has their own unique “aha” moments every time they come whether that is for one session or a whole 8-week program they walk away with tangible practical lessons for them.

5. With other leadership and coaching programs available, what makes Leading Together unique? How are your services different from its competitors?

Using a horse cuts through so much “stuff”.  Leaders often have to put on a brave face and lie to those around you.  Or the fake it until you make it.  Be positive and motivate everyone else regardless of what is going on for you.  However, “you can’t bullshit a horse”  authenticity matters to a horse. As prey animals, horses are incredibly sensitive to your motions and emotions. They respond to how you show up at that exact moment.  They don’t hold a grudge and forgive immediately.  So when you are with them and being genuinely clear, confident, and comfortable in yourself and your role as a leader they will follow.  Horses like humans just want to feel safe.  Horses are to herds as people are to teams.  They want a clear and confident leader but it has to be genuine.

 “Horses make you humble”, you cannot ignore a horse working with a 600 kilo animal reminds you to be present.  You need to park your ego at the gate. You need to be aware of what you’re doing (or not doing) as a leader and the impact you’re having on those around you.

 “Horses want you to set the pace” – know where you’re going, how you’re going to get there, communicate it, and role-model it clearly. Once you have their trust, you don’t have to wait for the horse – they want you to lead.

6. Did you face any difficulties or challenges when you decide to launch Leading Together? As the Founder and as a female entrepreneur, how did you face the challenges?

So many challenges how do you juggle trying to start a business, and being judged as the face and person stepping forward.  What if I fail?  Or what if I succeed?  As a woman in leadership, I have always felt I needed to work twice as hard to be taken half as seriously. 

Time management is the constant challenge of how to find the time to be the marketing person, being the website developer, be hands-on coaching, and sometimes accountant.  I think for me it is allowing myself the opportunities to be vulnerable and to learn.  And constantly being open to getting advice from those who have the experience find the topic expert and ask.  

7. As a female entrepreneur, would you like to share some advice for others who want to become entrepreneurs?

You have to have a ridiculous belief in yourself.  So that you can block out the criticism.  Everyone is scared when you start something new.  This is not unique.  Somehow you have to feel the fear and do it anyway.  The one thing I continue to remember is the advice “the breakthrough always comes just after you want to give up”.  So when you get the days where it all seems too hard, and everything is at the toughest point,  it is in that moment that the smallest step forward might just be your large breakthrough moment, that could be  “your overnight success”

The other little reminder I have is grandmother telling me you will only regret the things you didn’t do. Not the things you did do.  So don’t die wondering.

We are sure that you enjoyed and inspired reading this interview with Jannine Jackson, founder of Leading Together.To connect with her check her website

We Heart Entrepreneurs

We Heart Entrepreneurs is a blog that shares Journey of Successful Entrepreneurs and tips for being successful.

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