Reviews of a new book "Taking the Reins" by Harold Kurstedt, Virginia Tech professor emeritus of industrial and systems engineering, and Tim Thayne, who earned his doctorate at Virginia Tech in marriage and family therapy, are in, and the testimonials say the writing is skillful and "underlines the significant power of trust and positive communication."

"The clever use of horse tales and horse sense" keeps the "reader engaged, and even entertained so the material is understandable, believable, and valuable for taking action," said Mike Leinbach, NASA Space Center launch director.

Paul Torgersen, president emeritus of the university, wrote, "What can the cowboy and horse partnership teach us about the fundamentals of leadership, supervision, and management? The answer is plenty!"

"Taking the Reins" offers an interesting, unique approach to learning leadership by offering, chapter by chapter, situations in the horse training world, and applying them to efforts in managing, supervising, and leading people.

Kurstedt, a 30-year veteran of the classroom, taught strategic thinking and management systems engineering at Virginia Tech. Today, he has his own leadership consulting and training firm, Newport Group LLC, and consults for companies such as Lockheed Martin and Dewberry. Thayne is a speaker, writer, and pioneer in the field of marriage and family therapy, and has spent time facilitating transitions inside corporations, partnerships, and families.

Kurstedt and Thayne spent time with two specific "cowboys" Jay Brewer of Wildcatter Ranch, Graham, Texas, and Louis Wood of Mountainview Ranch, Waynesboro, Va., in order to write this book on viable leadership techniques.  

"In talking with these cowboys and watching them work as natural horse trainers, we gained valuable insights into the personal relationships between humans and horses, trainers, and trainees. These insights validate the practicality and effectiveness of our approach to management, supervision, and leadership as discussed in the book," the authors said.

"Business people have a great opportunity to learn from observing and analyzing the successful implementation of natural horse training principles and practices," Kurstedt added.

Kurstedt and Thayne argue that there are two basic management and supervision theories. One is negative in assumptions, and relies on threats and coercion, analogous to older practices of horse training when a horse was "broken". The second theory is positive in its assumptions, predicated on shared goals, and is analogous to natural horse training as done by today's famous horse trainers Monty Roberts and Buck Brannaman.

Their descriptions and discussions of supervision and associated caricatures of horses illustrated by Rich Diehl rest on the second theory of supervision and the parallel of natural horse training.

"Taking the Reins" is published by Advantage, Charleston, S.C.