The Five Roles of a Master Herder by Linda Kohanov

The Five Roles of a Master Herder by Linda Kohanov

It is often stated that it is the dog that is man’s best friend. Whilst this might be the case on a personal level equine expert Linda Kohanov argues in her latest book The Five Roles of the Master Herder that it has been the influence of nomadic cultures, along with their close working relationship to the horse, that has been most influential in determining the direction in which humanity has developed.

In her book Kohanov suggests that the principle characteristics of the horse now exemplifies both the best as well as the worst facets our modern corporate society and the way that it functions.

Given the economic disasters of the past decade or so very few would argue with the suggestion that the old predatory structure of business and the financial worlds are in need of a complete overhaul but for many Kohanov’s ascertain that we actually still need some of these predatorial qualities in order help transition our society into a healthier form will come as a surprise.

Core Herd Instincts

Kohanov is a renown expert on not only horses but on corporate business. In 1997 she founded Epona Equestrian Services – an Arizona-based collective of horse professionals, educators, coaches, and counsellors all of whom focus on exploring the potential benefits offered through horse-human bonding.

Today, Kohanov lectures and conducts workshops at conferences and retreat centres around the world. These are based around her innovative, highly-effective approach to leadership training and team-building.

In her book she shares some of her techniques and in doing so highlights the changing role of leadership and group collaboration today. This is an area which she believes is fraught with grave social dangers but which at the same time also offers an unprecedented opportunity to those prepared to fully engage with newly emerging paradigms.

For her, the greatest challenge faced by society as a whole is in learning to share power and yet equally avoid any process that emaciates our natural leadership qualities.

Unexpected Wisdom

In her book Kohanov explains how in nomadic or pastoral cultures a multifaceted, socially intelligent form of leadership developed that combined five very specific roles.

These she quantifies as:

  • Dominant
  • Leader
  • Nurturer/Companion
  • Sentinel
  • Predator
  • She explains how these societal structures allowed Master Herders to move inter-species communities across vast landscapes whilst at the same time remaining organised enough to deal with predators, changing climates and by maintaining control over aggressive and potentially disruptive herd members.

    It is these five specific roles that also appear within corporation structures and which need to be kept in balance or risk internal chaos and even the self-destruction of a company such as that which befell the corporate giant Enron.

    Destructive Roles

    The rise of the predator-psychopath that prowled Wall Street appears in every facet of business as well as within modern politics and most hierarchal institutions where the dog-eat-dog worlds of competition and domination are overly active and which very quickly suppress the natural empathic and creative instincts of less dominant members.

    In her book Kohanov explores the symbiotic nature of the five roles and offers her advice on how each one can be employed in post positive and less destructive ways.

    Later on she drills down into the specifics of each role and offers practical advice to those who struggle either with their own dominant expression of each role as well as help to those who recognise the inferior qualities and who wish to bring them into playing a stronger part in their daily lives.

    As she states in the conclusion to her book:

    A Master Herder is first and foremost the master of his or her own heart and mind….such a person is ultimately willing to embrace an improvisatory life that flows from the wisdom, needs, and talents of a fully empowered herd.


    I had been looking forward to reviewing the follow up to Linda Kovanov’s book The Power of the Herd – one which I had.felt was worthy of some praise for its fascinating and challenging ideas.

    This book is in many ways a companion publication to The Power of the Herd – although it is not necessary to have read Kohanov’s earlier book in order to understand her ideas on the five roles.

    Of the two this title is an altogether more political and focused work. It is considerably shorter and more concentrated which I feel is beneficial in getting to the core of her material.

    Her arguments are indeed very persuasive – though to even the most biopic within society there is little doubt that the world suffers greatly as a result of the predatorial instincts of just a few individuals.

    Given the financial damage that we have all suffered from over the past few years is a testament to that fact so it is interesting to read how this behaviour is placed into a larger sociological context by the author in both her works.

    As expected this is a powerful, enlightening and very grounded work. It would be good to see these ideas expressed here regarding corporate structure employed in a wider context and as Kohanov’s ideas spread and gain support we can only hope that this proves to be the case over the next decade or so.

    So, to summarise, I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone trying to establish their place and role in what has become a poisoned world environment. We have, as always seems to be the case, much to learn from nature and from our former nomadic races in particular.