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Yolanda Sing from Chloé Consultants on Leading by Example

Authentic leaders know who they are, they have passion for what they do, and they lead with their hearts as well as their heads.

Monique Verduyn




Vital stats

  • Player: Yolanda Sing
  • Company: Chloé Consultants
  • Est: 2008
  • Contact: +27 (0)71 268 6377,,
  • Visit:

Self-reflection, balance, self-confidence, humility. These are some of the values-based life lessons you can learn at Yolanda Sing’s equine leadership school, which operates programmes at various centres around the country, as well as outside South Africa.

Her team of seven horses, she explains, work with people to cut through the noise and feedback, and read their energy.

Her role is to interpret what happens in the paddock when programme delegates are pushed out of their comfort zones by animals which are large and imposing, but have no intention of doing any harm.

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Horses don’t care who you are, what your title is, or how much you earn. Instead, they relate with honesty and authenticity.

Sing’s interactive workshops thus become a safe place where people can come to escape the demands of city life, learn how to enhance their leadership skills and take the lessons back to the boardroom.

“No riding experience is required either as there is no riding involved and all activities are conducted on the ground.”

Authentic Leadership

“Leadership is based on congruency,” says Sing, a leadership coach who has worked with people all round the world and is the founder of Chloé Consultants.

“When you know yourself and what you stand for, it is much easier to know what to do in any situation because there is congruence or agreement between who you are, what you say and think, and what you do. When a person’s style of leadership is rooted in who they are and what matters most to them, it becomes easier to do the right thing, and to always do the best you can.”

Sounds simple, right? As Sing points out, however, ‘doing the right thing’ is a lifelong challenge for most people. Whether you term it ‘values-based’ or ‘authentic’ leadership, there are a few common elements to skilled leadership that incorporate both IQ and EQ:

  1. Authentic leaders are self-aware and self-actualised and aware of their strengths and their limitations, they show their real selves to the world all the time, they are not afraid of weaknesses or making mistakes.
  2. Authentic leaders are clear about their mission and objectives, and they are able to put the mission and the goals of the organisation ahead of their own interest. Able to let go of ego, they pursue results.
  3. Authentic leaders are emotionally intelligent and are unafraid of vulnerability. They’re able to communicate openly and honestly with their people, and they lead with empathy.
  4. Authentic leaders look to the future and are focused on the long-term. They understand and appreciate that growing a business requires hard work and that persistence will pay off over time.
  5. Authentic leaders lead by generating respect. Anyone who has ever watched an old western will remember how horses behave when they are intimidated – people are just the same.

Living Authentically

“Authentic leadership is a lifelong journey,” says Sing. “On the programme we begin by outlining the big picture for each participant. We discuss what their life purpose is, and what footprint they wish to leave in the sand. In the beginning, people are nervous and a little reserved, but within a few hours the horses help them to relax and to just focus on the present.”

One of the key elements of her equine facilitation programme is to help people let go of controlling behaviour. “We cannot control tomorrow,” she says. “We have to learn to be present in the moment; the rest will take care of itself.”

Being present in the moment means giving undivided attention to one thing at a time. It’s about taking the time to appreciate everything.

Clearing your mind of everything that’s not right in front of you gives leaders the ability to fully engage – whether it’s with a person or a situation – and to step out of the stress that comes with worrying about tomorrow. This cuts out the noise, enables you to get to the heart of a challenge, and make better decisions.

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“The process of becoming an authentic leader takes time,” says Sing.

“I advise people on the programme to practice living in the present a little every day. Because of the compound effect, every step adds up until you wake up one day and realise how your life has transformed, and how much more effective you have become as a leader.”

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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