About Sheppard Lake

About Sheppard Lake

Let’s start with the formalities:

I’m Sheppard Lake – I help develop leaders and organizations that want to build a better future for themselves, their employees, their clients and their communities. I’m a leadership and organizational development consultant and coach with over 20 years of experience. I’ve worked with everyone from solopreneurs to executives in multi-national companies. I walk my talk – I love learning and developing myself as much as others. In fact, I have a lot of credentials: MSc in Organizational and Social Psychology from The London School of Economics, Master Certified Coach and Master Facilitator of Equus Coaching™, to name a few. My clients say I’m an excellent facilitator and a transformational coach.

But let me share my deeper philosophies:

I believe leadership is more about being than doing. And it’s not limited to people who lead other people or organizations. We are all leaders of our own experience in work and life – and how we influence the world around us. I call myself a catalyst for self-discovery because I also believe that clients are most effective when they truly know themselves and can consistently show up authentically as opposed to how they think everyone else wants them to be. I am a firm believer that it is in our vulnerability that we show strength. Not the “bare your soul” kind of vulnerability—the kind where you’re willing to own your mistakes and the fact that sometimes you really don’t know what you’re doing.

On a more personal note, I think nature and wildlife (especially the work I do with horses!) have a lot to share with us about living and leading. Africa has my heart these days, so I take an annual pilgrimage there. Keep an eye on this website – I’ll be adding international retreats here in the future.

There’s more to the story…

I have a deeper purpose in life: I want to influence a higher level of consciousness in the world. This purpose drives the work I do. What started me down this path was a life-changing experience with a horse named Imus.

In 2006, I went on vacation to a mind-body-spirit resort in Arizona where they had something called The Equine Experience. It was run by a horse whisperer named Wyatt Webb.

The minute I saw an activity involving horses, I was in! I took riding lessons from the time I was old enough to get on a horse through college, but it had been awhile since I had spent time with them; regardless, I still fancied myself quite adept. The opening exercises confirmed my confidence. I was easily able to accomplish the task of cleaning a hoof and getting the horse to move off the fence to groom him. So, when we moved to the next exercise, I volunteered to go first – you know, seeing that I was now an expert and all.

The goal was to move a horse around a round pen without saying a word. Our only tool was the energy we brought to the experience. After about 20 minutes of complete failure in getting Imus to move, my confidence evaporated like water in the desert. A facilitator came over and stood beside me, worked her magic and Imus finally moved. Dejected, I started to walk over to thank my horse and leave the round pen.

“Make him come to you,” boomed the deep voice of Wyatt from outside the fence.

“Excuse me?” I asked tentatively.

“Make the horse come to you,” he said.

So I stood in the middle of the arena staring at this gorgeous chestnut creature standing by the gate to exit. Imus was nonplussed. It was as if I didn’t exist. At the time, I didn’t notice how familiar that feeling was.

Wyatt invited me to sit down on the ground and just be present in the moment. Truth be told, I wasn’t even sure what that meant. From the outside of the fence, he instructed me in the art of presence. My new goal was to be present enough with myself that Imus would come to me. As I felt a warm breeze graze my arms, I could smell the scent of horses (and the manure Wyatt was cleaning up). In addition to the chirping of birds, when I was truly present, I could hear Imus’ tail swish away annoying flies. I saw the nuances of the grains of sand in the round pen. My mind chimed in, always wanting to be involved. Presence disappeared as I wondered what the other participants were thinking, convinced they wished I would hurry up so they could take their turn.

As if inside my mind, Wyatt checked in with me, asking where my thoughts had wandered. After a bit of coaching, he suggested I close my eyes and assume a different posture.

I sat in the middle of the arena, eyes closed, head bowed, hand out, trying to be present and praying that horse would just come over to me. But it wasn’t the horse I really wanted – it was approval, acceptance and connection with others.

I thought all of that would come from somewhere outside of me, but the truth I discovered is that it’s far more powerful when it comes from within.

After several minutes of this practice of presence, I finally came home to myself. Imus felt me drop my mask and came over. I knew he was there, but not because I heard him or smelled him – because I felt his presence. I opened my eyes and right in front of my face was his muzzle. I stood up, hugged Imus and left the round pen with a sense of profound humility and an understanding that the more I think I know, the less I really know.

In retrospect, I also saw that most of my life had been spent trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be so they would like me. Authenticity is far more appealing than desperation.

That day I realized that when my focus is solely on getting others to connect with me, I lose connection with myself. I started understanding that the most important relationship in life (and work) is the one we have with ourselves. And the way we treat others is based on how we feel about ourselves. When we truly understand and fully accept ourselves, flaws and all, we see the world and others in it differently. In other words, our internal relationship dictates how we think and act in our external relationships.

After I left that experience with Imus, I knew I wanted to expand the work I do in the world. While the words weren’t available to me at the time, I knew I wanted to help create a higher level of consciousness in the world. I’ve spent the better part of the past decade bringing that to others and would love to help you and/or your organization identify ways to bring more consciousness to your work and relationships.


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