Fire In The Belly


wildhorsesDo you like horses?  I don’t.  For the most part I think horses are “evil”.  It seems that every time I attempt to “get back on the horse” I get bucked off again.

Four of us were riding at Douglas Lake Ranch – one of the largest ranches in the world.  My valiant steed was named “Pudding”.  And his mannerisms matched his name.  Just what I wanted, a docile gelding without any fire in his belly.

As we plodded across the open plain and up a gentle slope to the crest of a hill, we came upon a site that sent shivers up the spine of the man leading our expedition.  On the other side of the hill, approximately 100 yards away, was a pack of about 50 “wild” horses.  As we crested the hill they all simultaneously looked up at us.

Our guide told us to turn around and head back to the ranch ASAP.  We did so as best a group of novice riders could.  After about a minute of riding I turned around to see our guide in a very “Man From Snowy River-esque” pose waving his hat in the air as his horse reared up on its hind legs.  He was attempting to get the now charging pack of horses to go back to where they came from.

They would not be dissuaded.

The “alpha” horses led the team charging past our guide and down the side of the hill after us – whom I am sure they deemed to be weaker prey.  Two dominant males then galloped amongst our fleeing group of 3 and began kicking their hind legs at our horses.  We found out later this was designed to get our horses to buck us off and then they would forcibly recruit our horses into their wild horses gang.

All the while good old pudding steadfastly plodded on as fast as he could, and ultimately he got me home safe and sound.  Pudding didn’t have much fire in his belly.  In this particular situation it would have come in handy, but for his regular duties he needed no fire in his belly.

In leadership fire in the belly is indispensable.  Fire in the belly is that inner drive that keeps you passionately moving forward in the face of opposition and obstacles.   Leaders must be intrinsically motivated by a deep determination to not give up.  They must possess a strong passion, purpose, conviction and commitment to keep taking courage and taking initiative for the greater good.

That’s fire in the belly.

In a coaching session with a successful CEO entrepreneur we were talking about one of his leaders who wasn’t performing to expectations.  We discussed the concept of fire in the belly.  He had discovered this particular leader was deficient in the fire in the belly department.

We agreed that it is easier to reign in a horse with fire in its belly than to try to fire up a horse.

So, the challenge is, can you impart, train, teach, or otherwise equip people with “fire in the belly”?  Or, is it something they either have or they don’t?

I believe the people you hire will either have fire in the belly when you hire them, or they won’t.   You won’ be able to impart fire into the belly of your people.  You can reign it in or release it, but you can’t create it.

So, as a leader hiring leaders you need to somehow test for fire in the belly in your recruitment process.  And, testing for fire in the belly needs to be part of your expectation of your leaders and part of their performance reviews.

And, it needs to part of your expectation for yourself.  Fire up the fire in your belly!

Passion, purpose, commitment, conviction, initiative, courage, determination, and resoluteness are all part of fire in the belly.  It is far easier to hire it and learn to release it and reign it in than it is to instill it.  The former is a winning proposition, the latter is not.

We don’t need leaders like Pudding.  We need leaders with fire in their bellies.

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Leading and Living on Purpose.