Leadership Tips from Mankind’s Best Friend, the Dog

Guest post from Dr. Garry McDaniel:
For over three
decades, the Gallup organization has been conducting surveys to illuminate the
role leader’s play in creating a workforce of engaged employees to
organizational leadership. While this is admirable, it is even more impressive
to note that for over fifteen thousand
years, dogs have been humankind’s constant companion and an observer of our
progress from the epochs of hunter-gatherer, agriculturalist, industrialism, to
the current knowledge era.  Since dogs
have been our close companions for so many millennia, let’s consider what
advice they might give us to serve as more effective leaders.
1.   
Demonstrate
loyalty
.  When we ask dog owners what
they like about dogs, one of the first qualities they identify is that dogs are
unfailingly loyal. Dogs bond with their families and stick with them through
thick and thin. Loyalty is also of key importance to leaders and organizational
success. In fact, the mark of an effective leader is the ability to influence
others to accomplish worthy goals; this requires loyalty to the desired
outcome.  Tip from Fido: Don’t gossip
about others who are not present and treat all employees fairly and with
respect. 
 
2.
Maintain
a positive attitude
. Dogs are just about the most positive creature on Earth. My
dog Panda views every outing as an opportunity to explore the world. An
effective leader is definitely more of the ‘glass half full’ instead of the
‘glass half empty’ kind of person who projects a sincere positive attitude that
others find contagious and inspiring. Tip from Fido: Starting tomorrow, begin
each day or meeting not by bemoaning what went wrong, but by recognizing what
is working well and for what you are grateful.
 
3.
Communicate
clearly
.  A friend observed that dogs
have ‘crystal hearts.’ By this, he meant that dogs communicate clearly and
without guile; what you see is what you get. Humans, on the other hand, often intentionally
say one thing and mean something else. Effective leaders communicate clearly
and ensure that the message is offered in the right tone, through the most
effective medium, and is received accurately. Tip from Fido: Don’t wag your
tail as you growl, and don’t whimper when you need to bark. Say what you mean;
don’t obfuscate your message intentionally deceive and mislead. Ensure there
are clear channels for accurate communication up and down the chain of command. 
 
4.
Be
playful
. One of the qualities we admire most in our dogs is their unconcealed
joy in engaging with us in play. Whether it is going for a walk, throwing a
ball, playing tug-of-war, swimming, or jogging, our dogs love playing with us. Research
is clear that happy, playful work environments are more productive than those
that are drab and dreary. Employees respond far better to the carrot than the
stick. Tip from Fido: Encourage creative, playful problem-solving and
brainstorming.  Actively support employee
play in the form of bowling, softball, fun runs, ping pong, dress-up days, and
other fun events that foster connection and engagement.
 
5.
Be
forgiving
. Step on your dog’s tail and they will yelp, but forgive you
immediately. Is that true in your workplace? When someone feels slighted (whether
real or imagined) does the resulting animosity fester and destroy productivity,
communication, and efficiency? Good leaders ‘get over it’ and recognize that
people- themselves included- make mistakes. Tip from Fido: Recognize that no
one is perfect; learn from and forgive mistakes. Be humble and apologize when
you are wrong and accept apologies from others.
6.
Love
what you do
. Unconditional love; it is the hallmark of what makes a dog
humankind’s best friend. Race, creed, color, sexual preference, religion, body
type, and age don’t matter to your dog; they still love being with you. Effective
leaders demonstrate clear passion for what they do and appreciate the passion
and success of others. Tips from Fido: Pay attention, reward and recognize the
achievements of others. Let them know both publically and privately what they
did and how much you value their contribution. Demonstrate an honest
appreciation for diversity in everything you do.
 
7.
Live
a balanced life
. Dogs seem particularly adept at living a balanced life. Panda
appears to have a wonderful sense for knowing when to transition between
sleeping, playing, eating, or just engaging with other dogs and people.  Our culture tends to demand that we focus on
‘getting results’ at the expense of all other aspects of our lives. Great
leaders recognize that ‘results’ are important, but how one attains those results is vital to long term creativity,
productivity, and effectiveness. Tip from Fido: Reflect on how you are spending
your time; set aside adequate time for family, friends, your own personal
health, professional and spiritual growth?  Intervene when you notice a well intentioned
employee is burning themselves out trying to contribute to the organization.
 
You may have seen the magic
trick called the Chinese Locking Rings in which a magician holds up several
separate rings and then ‘magically’ appears to link them all together. Our dogs
would remind us that truly effective leaders recognize that the seven qualities
discussed above may appear separate, but in reality, they are all highly
interconnected. Separately, each has value; together they define the difference
between mediocre and outstanding leadership. Perhaps dogs know us better than
Gallup! 
Garry McDaniel and Sharon Massen are professors at
Franklin University and speak nationally on what individuals and organizations
can learn from dogs about leadership, team building, and customer service. Their
latest book is,
The Dog’s Guide to Your Happiness: Seven
Secrets for a Better Life from Man’s Best Friend
.

 Garry and Sharon invite
you to contribute stories about what you have learned from your dog that has
positively enhanced your view on personal, family or professional
relationships. Please send your stories or insights to Garry and Sharon at http://www.happydogsecrets.com or by
calling 614-657-8524.