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Women RIDERS began in 1995 as an intensive, ranch and riding workshop designed for women who aspire to leadership. Over the years our ranch locations and program content have adapted to the times and client needs, but our commitment to training women in a safe, supportive, and dynamic manner has remained unchanged.

Being a leader vs. being a "boss"
To be a leader, you don't have to be "a boss" — people can choose you to be their leader. If you are the "boss," you certainly hope that people do choose you! Whether you are someone who produces results, manages change, or creates new products, your leadership will be evident if you confidently assert authority, competently partner with customers and suppliers, and compassionately guide teams to superior performance. In the Women RIDERS workshop, you explore your own leadership approach while sharing ours. The combination results in an authentic leadership practice that is truly your own.

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Why a separate workshop for women?
One of the reasons that Women RIDERS initially emerged was to address the unique ways that women learn and lead. In classroom research, it has unfortunately been confirmed that both men and women can be discouraging to women speakers and more positive toward men (for example, responding to men with praise and to women with "uh huh"). The reluctance some women feel to assert themselves in mixed groups is not merely a function of personal characteristics, but a contextual situation that can undermine a woman's contribution. Our workshop for women leaders and potential leaders provides an opportunity for women to share dreams, triumphs, and concerns within a supportive environment.

There are gender-based realities1 facing women in their leadership roles as well. Although the business world has acknowledged the gospel of participative and team-oriented cultures — which many women leaders excel at developing — there are continuing obstacles to women's success. For example, studies have found that individuals reporting to women expect them to be both highly technical and bottom-line oriented as well as "nurturing" and interpersonally savvy. A woman leader is not given the same latitude to make mistakes that men are given; women who are perceived to be lacking in people skills are rated particularly harshly. In addition, women and men tend to attribute success or failure to different things: Many women will blame themselves if something goes wrong while men tend to blame external factors or bad luck. Conversely, women's success is often viewed by women and men as luck or affirmative action, while men triumph due to talent or ability. Thus, a key emphasis within the Women RIDERS program is to create an awareness of the contextual/social challenges facing women, even as we strive to enhance each woman's level of competence, confidence, and credibility so that she may surmount such challenges. While women do continue to make significant strides in breaking the "glass ceiling," there is an on-going need for women's leadership training.

Knowing yourself
Women RIDERS begins with the premise that authentic leaders focus as much on who they are, as on what they need to know or do. One of our core and unique strengths as women is the willingness to look inside and take stock of our thoughts, feelings and values. Women often admit more readily to limitations than many male leaders and are also able to request help more easily. What we do not do as readily is recognize the legitimacy of our desires, our current abilities, or our substantial reservoir of essential leadership characteristics — perseverance, humility, compassion, focus. This workshop delves deeply into what are women's ways of leading, exploring how each participant chooses or desires to be in her life's work.


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Knowing who you are leads to greater confidence. And knowing what you know and don't know can add to that confidence. Although many women are uncertain about what they do well, research indicates that female leaders depend heavily upon their own competence in succeeding in the workplace. It helps a woman's confidence to be firmly grounded in competence...and also to know when a talent needs to be developed, delegated, or dropped altogether. The Women RIDERS workshop begins with an assessment of current leadership competencies and areas needing improvement.

Prior to the Women RIDERS Workshop, we ask all participants to take a well-researched leadership instrument. In this way, women come prepared to immediately create their learning goals for the workshop. Our individualized approach allows each person to focus on what leadership practices she needs to improve, as seen through the lens of the workplace. During the workshop, the instrument's information may be confirmed, revised, or complemented with new data. The workshop leaders guide each participant through exercises that address the leadership gaps; other participants are invaluable sources of feedback and new ideas as well. We have found that while each woman leader may choose a unique focus, the overlapping themes make learning from one another especially powerful. It is our experience that as competence and confidence increase, so too does credibility. With greater confidence, leaders are willing to be balanced in their assessment of themselves (and others), clear about purposes, optimistic and positive, and forthright in their feedback (no hidden agendas). Trust is a major component of credibility and it is a truism to say that as women learn to trust ourselves, so others will follow.


Read a review! Columnist Patti Watts provides a firsthand account of her experiences at a Women RIDERS workshop in
"A Reluctant Leader Learns to Take the Reins."


Working with partners
Leadership is about being in relationship (with ourselves) and others. Women are often skilled at relationships at an early age and consider their relationships a primary source of satisfaction (and success). Nonetheless, women can experience difficulty when the relationship involves authority. We may readily partner with others, but become concerned about being overbearing when we're the "partner-in-charge." The ability to maintain personal authority without reducing it to a male dominance or competitive model is one that many women struggle with.

We find that the horses in RIDERS programs provide a wonderful metaphor for a variety of relationships that are common in a workplace environment, including:

• the "beast" of a large project to which we've recently been assigned
• the "beast" of a manager who plants his two feet in the ground and doesn't easily budge, and
• the "beast" of a supplier or employee who doesn't seem to understand—or respect—any of the things you have asked for.

The Women RIDERS workshop offers opportunities to discuss how women lead when facing these and other dilemmas. A partnership approach is essential for leading in today's world—and it does not require the absence of authority. In addition, the horse also clearly demonstrates the value of depending upon others to help us get work done.

For example, horses are:
A symbol of support. The horse represents one who will wholeheartedly "support" you—in this case quite literally. You can be carried through to success. You can take the reins of power and experience how partnership feels. How you interact and build a mutually cooperative relationship in this setting gives you invaluable information as to how you build one in other settings.

A metaphor for diversity. This partner is not just like you. But then, many people are not the same in the work-world either. The increasing diversity in the workplace requires leaders who know how to build credible relationships with a diverse set of partners and team members. Individuals who know themselves well are often able to tolerate and appreciate differences with others. The workshop offers opportunities to discuss how leaders lead when partners and teams have ways of "behaving" that do not match our expectations — and when they have ways that do!

Leading teams
The need to be a leader of teams is strikingly clear in organizations today—as the manager of a team, project manager, the head of a temporary task force or committee, the liaison with another team, chairing a meeting, and more. The Women RIDERS workshop uses a variety of challenging team activities to develop the skills and advance the learning of the designated leader. Each participant has opportunities to lead the team, follow, reflect, give and receive feedback, resulting in new insights and increased competence. And all the key elements of team leadership become apparent whether you are leading, participating or listening to others. Comments from previous Women RIDERS suggest that our fast-paced and integrative team exercises, such as cattle-penning, are not only exciting, but extraordinarily rich in leadership learning.

Take the reins of power: Join us for this unforgettable leadership development experience!

For more on the reality that women face in the workplace, you may want to consult one or more of the following sources;
• "Leadership, Cognitive Complexity, and Gender" by Rebecca Proehl and Kathleen Taylor, (Kappa Omicon Nu Forum, Vol. 12, No. 1, 2000)
• The Connective Edge by Jean Lipman-Blumen, (TheJossey-BassPublishers, 1996)
• The Female Advantage by Sally Hegelsen, (Currency,Doubleday Publishers, 1990) 
• Smashing the Glass Ceiling by Pat Heim and Susan Golant (Simon & Schuster, 1995) 
• The Chilly Classroom Climate: A Guide to Improve the Education of Women by Bernice Resnick Sandler, Lisa A. Silverberg, and Roberta M. Hall. (National Association for Women in Higher Education, 1996)
• "Ways Women Lead" by Judy Rosenar, (Harvard Business Review, 68, 1990, Nov.-Dec.) p. 119-125

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