What could a dog teach you about leadership? A lot.

What could a dog teach you about leadership? A lot.

Do you have a dog?

Do you ever wonder what goes on in their brains?

If you don’t have a pet, would you like one?

I don’t have a pet. Never had except if you count goldfish or a turtle.

Lately I’ve had a few friends who have dogs and one dog in particular, Lishka, makes me wonder should I get one?

I had the opportunity of looking after her and found so much about her that was applicable to leadership.

Here’s some dog behaviours us humans could use more:

Curiosity
Dogs are curious. A short walk actually ended up being a lot of mileage because she checked into every corner, under every little bush, around every pole and back-and-forth across the laneways.

There was an enthusiasm to that curiosity as well. A desire to find out more, to explore, a want to find something new or special.

Tips for Being Curious:
* Approach ideas with a beginner’s mindset. If you knew nothing, what would you consider about this idea? Listen without judgement.
* Stop yourself when you say “that won’t work”, “we’ve done it before“ and ask, what do you mean? How would that work?
* Ask questions. Especially before deciding or giving advice.
* Take something outside of your usual realm of reference and try to apply it to a problem you have that needs to be fixed (like how dogs could influence leadership 🤣)

How often are you enthusiastically curious about your people and about the ideas that they bring to you?

Appreciative
When I took Lishka for a walk, she was appreciative.

When I threw the tennis ball for her to fetch, she returned it with tail wagging, head bobbing, and what I thought was a smile on her face.

When I petted her head, her tail wagged, she was appreciative.

And even when I did nothing but sat with my cup of tea reading, she nuzzled in and was appreciative just to be in the same space.

Tips for Being Appreciative:
* Smile. With your mouth and eyes.
* Say thank you. And mean it.
* Say “I appreciate when you (insert specific behaviour)…”

How often are you warmly appreciative to your colleagues, teammates, and those you work with?

Fully Present
Dogs are fully present. Whether Lishka was fetching, a ball, sniffing a pole, or nudging my leg to get a treat or a petting, she was fully present.

Even when she was resting in her basket, when I went to another room or called her, she perked up and was by my side instantaneously.

When I was rubbing her ears, she was just fully there tail wagging, and head nudging further into my hand.

Tips for Being Present:
* Focus on one thing at a time – meaning when talking to someone, turn over your phone or turn off your computer hence remove distractions.
* Slow down, look at what you are doing, if that means you’re talking to an individual look them in the eye. Listen. Don’t plan what you’re going to say next.
* Breathe and feel your feet on the ground or your bum on the seat. Your body can’t help but be in the present so if you connect to your body in those moments, you’ll be in the present.

How often are you present with your colleagues? How often are you fully present?

Drop your ideas about dogs’ behaviours, or pets in general, that are applicable to leadership in the comments below.

What dog like behaviours could you apply to your leadership?

How could you be more curious?

What do you need to do to be fully present when you’re engaged with another person?

For more tips on being a better leader here’s a link for my book. Soft Skills HARD RESULTS – a practical guide to people skills for analytical and task-driven leaders. Or get in touch here to arrange a complimentary leadership session with me.