Saddled Horse

July 30, 2021

This is a (rare) autobiographical piece.

Atins was the idyllic setting of this family adventure. A pause for reflection, connection and fun in one of the planet’s most beautiful ecological parks. The perfect backdrop for a horseback ride at sunset around the magnificent dunes and emerald ponds.

As customary in adventures, I led the family troop along routes unbeknownst to us all, dazzled by the exuberant nature and the unforgettable family moment.

Riding a fast-galloping horse is one of my sports passions. I love horses. I love speed even more. All perfect… for a cinematographic fall (!?).

Milliseconds. Duly filmed by the diligent guide in charge of the horses.

The fast-galloping white horse finds a deep hole hidden in the treacherous dunes. The body inertially thrown forward has only two instinctive alternatives: try to stay on the saddle risking being thrown over the horse’s heads (and thus get trampled), or throw oneself to the side of the horse and try to land safely on the sandy grounds.

I consciously chose the second motion. I did the right body movement, readily prepared to roll and come up standing on the other side. But that was not enough: my shoulder met the ground quicker than my mind processed it. The outcome? A collarbone broken in four pieces, one of them close to piercing through the skin. I may say it was the strongest physical pain I have ever endured.

Irreversible fatality. And the true epopee was starting that moment. How to travel quickly from Atins to the city of São Paulo in time to undergo a surgical procedure? ... Quickly became a very relative concept when you are 2 hours away by boat from the first sign of urbanization. It was many, many hours to the final destination.

Yet, this piece does not intend to be melodramatic.

The core message here concerns primarily the change of roles my family members and I experienced – mostly my dear wife – before and after the fantastic fall (or, to better describe it, odd). Used to lead, I had to be led. Used to sort things out, I had to be sorted out. Used to support, I had to be supported. Used to care for myself, I had to be cared for. Used to venture, I had to be framed.

The archetype of self-sufficient and unfailing leadership has been questioned for decades in the face of the inexorably more complex, ephemeral and systemic reality. Brilliant and fearless leaders, used to coordinating their teams across rough seas, are increasingly repositioning to a more collective modus operandi in the decision-making process. Steely leaders are becoming more comfortable with their weaknesses in their relationships with themselves and others. Between heroes and villains, we increasingly choose the imperfect mortals. Yet, even so, a difficult transition for strong leaders.

For entrepreneurs such as myself, even more challenging!

To me, the saddled horse was found in the dilacerated collarbone. It was letting myself be led by the family I so protect and care for. It was respecting the time (endless for a patient) required for the travels. It was losing control in the face of the unthinkable. It was resigning myself to the interruption of the so-awaited family week. It was allowing myself to be fragile in the eyes of my children, facing the undeniable acute pain.

We will never forget the short time we spent in Lençóis Maranhenses. Personally, even with the ten pins in my shoulder, I became a better leader exactly for having been led when I reached a crisis.

NB: I highlight Bradesco Seguros’s irreproachable assistance throughout the whole episode.


Daniel Augusto Motta é Managing Partner e CEO da BMI Blue Management Institute. Doutor em Economia pela USP, Mestre em Economia pela FGV-EAESP e Bacharel em Economia pela USP. É Alumni OPM Harvard Business School. Atua também como Managing Partner da corporate venture capital WhiteFox sediada em San Francisco (EUA) e como Senior Tupinambá Maverick na content tech Bossa.etc. Também atua como Diretor de Planejamento Estratégico da UNIBES e Membro do Conselho Deliberativo do MASP. Foi Membro-Fundador da Sociedade Brasileira de Finanças. Foi Professor nos MBAs da Fundação Dom Cabral, Insper, FGV, ESPM e PUC-SP. É autor de diversos artigos publicados por Valor Econômico, EXAME, VocêSA e Folha de São Paulo, e também tem três artigos publicados pela Harvard Business Review Brasil. É autor dos livros best-sellers A Liderança Essencial e Anthesis.