It takes a lot to be a leader in business these days. Not too long ago, boardrooms and offices were filled with only men. But not anymore. Women are everywhere now and female executives and business owners face unique challenges.
Deep in Virginia horse country is not where you would expect to go for intensive business leadership coaching sessions. But that is what is going on here.
"We want to just balance our energetic state first and then we will approach him," Shari Jaeger Goodwin tells the three female business owners she is working with.
She uses her horses to help people improve their leadership style.
"Just notice how you feel where you may be holding tension in your body," says Goodwin.
The horse they are working with, Noble, is nervous. He has spent much of this morning kicking, running and sweating. Goodwin says it is a direct reflection of the nervous energy in the room.
"This is about offering neutral safe energy to Noble, who is a little nervous today," Goodwin says.
But Goodwin tries to calm the women and asks them to ground themselves.
"Feel your feet on the floor, wiggle your toes, connect to the deep energy of the Earth," she says.
They breathe deeply and rebalance their energy. Noble calmly and quietly approaches the women.
"Just notice where he is," she says. "He is drawn to this energy because this is an energy of confidence and trust. This is the energy you need to be an inspired leader and to inspire and motivate others to follow you."
Goodwin is a business strategist and author with a background in science and entrepreneurship. She is also an experienced horseman.
She says horses reflect back to us in an energetic way -- our "authentic self." And it may not match how we see ourselves.
Going through these practices helps you see yourself more clearly and allowing for personal and even professional growth.
"The evidence is in the horse," says Goodwin. "They don't lie. They are going to tell you the God's honest truth right there in front of you whether you want to hear it or not, and for some people, it is really painful."
Once the women have calmed themselves and balanced their energy, Noble is at peace. Now, Goodwin invites them into the arena.
One of the business owners decides to stay out because she is still not feeling calm.
Goodwin asks the other women to get Noble to follow them and to lead him without a rope. It is an action that requires the horse to trust and the women to work as a team -- and without words.
"I did not think that I was going to be able to calm Noble down and make him go right to that ball," says Kara Dickey. "I was surprised that my confidence and conviction could lead directly to that."
She is a software management consultant who has been working with Goodwin to improve her leadership style.
"Now I'm enjoying work better because I think about it differently," she says. "Instead of being a dictator, I am more of a counselor."
"It is a skill," said Bobbi McIntyre. "You learn the skill of being grounded. You learn the skill of finding a peaceful place. The more you do it, the more skillful you become."
McIntyre, a Navy captain who retired from the military after more than 30 years, is looking to increase her confidence as she launches a new business.
"I have used the grounding techniques and the calming techniques to keep business meetings flowing, to keep things on topic and to pull the best out of people," she says.
After several sessions with Goodwin, McIntyre is overwhelmed by her own personal growth and shocked by how business has taken off.
"I am coming from a place of sincerity and love," McIntyre tells us. "In truth, it's love. I have this expansive love for people, I just want to help them and they started to come!"
Some of the nation's top business strategists say humans rely mostly on verbal communication, but horses teach us to listen and communicate with our hearts and our whole bodies, which they say is essential to being a good leader.