“The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.” - Confucius
Harry de Leyer was late to the auction on that snowy day in 1956, and all of the good horses had already been sold. The few that remained were old and spent and had been bought by a company that would salvage them.
One of these pitiful horses, an uncared-for, gray gelding with ugly-looking wounds on its legs, caught his eye. The animal still bore the marks that had been made by a heavy work harness, evidence to the hard life he had led. But something about him captured Harry’s attention, so he offered $80 for him.
It was snowing when Harry’s children saw the horse for the first time, and because of the coat of snow on the horse’s back, the children named him “Snowman.” Harry took good care of the horse, in fact, Snowman made such rapid improvement that a neighbor purchased him for twice what Harry had originally paid. But soon, the new owner was not happy with Snowman. Snowman seemed to like to jump fences, as impossible as that sounds for a horse of his age and background. He demanded Harry take the horse back.
Harry’s great dream was to own a pedigreed jumping horse, but cost prevented it from becoming a reality. Snowman was already getting old—he was eight when Harry purchased him—and had been treated poorly during his life. But, apparently, Snowman wanted to jump, so Harry decided to see what the horse could do.
In 1958, Harry entered Snowman in his first competition. Snowman stood among the beautifully bred, champion horses, looking very much out of place. Other horse breeders called Snowman a “flea-bitten gray.” But a wonderful, unbelievable thing happened that day. Snowman won!
Harry continued to enter Snowman in other competitions, and Snowman continued to win.
Audiences cheered every time Snowman won an event. He became a symbol of how extraordinary an ordinary horse could be. He appeared on television. Stories and books were written about him.
As Snowman continued to win, one buyer offered $100,000 for the old plow horse, but Harry would not sell. In 1958 and 1959, Snowman was named “Horse of the Year.” Eventually, the gray gelding—who once been marked for sale to the lowest bidder—was inducted into the show jumping Hall of Fame.
For many, Snowman was much more than a horse. He became an example of the hidden, untapped potential that lies within each of us. Great leadership isn’t just about being in front with a banner; it is about knowing who is following and the potential they possess. We do not always need a new team or a new player. In an unscientific survey, nearly all who were asked agreed that they possess more skill and knowledge then their present job requires. What an incredible vast storage of untapped talent. Successful leadership is focused on unleashing the talent within your team members and the rest will naturally fall into place.
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