Consensual Leadership – a new paradigm

April 30, 2016

Horse Sense


Image above –  Horses are used to develop authentic leadership as they shy away from mixed messages and help leaders develop clear intention, body language, energy and presence – in a cooperative and consensual way. When they feel safe, these large animals are happy to allow humans to lead them – safety being key to any collaborative endeavour 🙂



Last year New Zealand passed legislation to recognise animals as sentient beings, and as any dog owner will tell you, dogs are responsive, adaptive and join in their human family. Like dogs, horses have lived with humans for millennia, but as ‘prey’ animals – unlike the predator canine – they possess a heightened sense of danger and operate as a herd to protect themselves. To do this, horses alternate their leaders, offering flexibility for each particular situation.


This new leadership paradigm – Consensual Leadership – calls on those ‘skilled’ in the group to take charge when appropriate. Playback Theatre Sydney  is also developing their consensual leadership framework this year, to identify and develop the strengths in each ensemble member to use it to lead the ensemble, wherever possible. As part of our 2016 Visioning, we have listed the competencies that we feel are vital to developing our healthy herd! – and are actively developing each of us in these competencies. We believe that if we can grow our Leadership Skillset, and use each individual’s key strength when needed, then our combined strengths will make our theatre troupe very capable and more robust.


Similar to birds flying in a ‘V’ – with the first bird, withstanding the most air pressure, being constantly replaced as they tire – this is an ever changing and cooperative form of leading.  As our ensemble develops our consensual leadership abilities, we are all challenged to be fully present with what’s required when, and step up to lead or support another’s leadership when a new situation arises.


Being present to our abilities, other’s abilities and how they might interact is vital. As we develop our team towards a consensual leadership model, our appreciation of our strengths in consensus, becomes even more apparent. And in acknowledging our skills, and actively developing each leadership capability, it strengthens us as a group and allows us to achieve even more!




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