Leadership: In three or four steps?

As an Storyteller & Leadership enthausiast, I like to work with script writing structures in my communication work, in particular the three-step approach: Beginning , Middle, and End.  

As an Equestrian & Leadership enthausiast, however, I have recently started to work with the four-step approach: Request, Pressure, Response, and Reward.


The four-step approach is from behavior scientist Andrew McLean and is used by the equestrian Academy of Bartels in The Netherlands. It teaches to be conscious when training your horse, but in my view the same applies to people. The Request (please do it), Pressure (Do it now), Response (listen), and Reward (You did a good job, well done!) gives much clarity to leaders as what to do, when and how.

For example, take a recent case where people in the Dutch city of Utrecth had to move out of their houses because asbest was found during renovation. Whilst asbest was found on the Thursday, it was not until Friday that the authorities suddenly and in haste evacuated the area.

The biggest complaint was two fold and very common:

1. that the authorities should have done something immediately on Thursday (inform, evacuation, …) and that

2. they did not inform well enough (about level of danger, substitute housing …)

Clearly, the first step, the Request (please do it) was overlooked and the authorities started with the second step, the Pressure (do it now!).

I know it is difficult, cumbersome and time consuming to deal with proper crisis management. One has to try to foresee and learn about other’s worst case practices. It is however, where every leader can make his or her mark. It’s the difference between being an ordinary good horseman or woman or an extraordinary good horseman or woman. The four steps are important and make a difference in being successful or not.

There are not many who put extra time and brain effort in preparing his or her own conscious leadership story with a clear purposefull Request, an affirming Pressure, a listening ear to the Response, and the giving of a Reward. You’ll have to get comfortable in the Complexity quadrant of Dave Snowden’s Cynefin, a framework well known in management science. Once you have probed and sensed for yourself, you can respond to the outside world with the four-step approach.

It is not easy. However, you’ll make your equestrian or leadership experience a better one – if only you try!

Read more about Story Structure: Beginning, Middle, and End

Read more about Andrew McLean

Read more about Dave Snowden’s Cynefin