What a Puppy Can Teach Us About Leadership

By: Ruth Padilla Portacci

We adopted a rescue puppy last week and named her Cocoa.  It’s been a long time since my husband or I have raised a pup, but for anyone who has, you know what an incredible feeling of joy it is to have a four-legged furry friend. There have been some challenges along the way too with potty training, teething and sleeping in her crate– no real surprises there. Without challenges where would the fun be in anything we do? Perfection is so boring.

When the decision was made to adopt Cocoa, I wanted to set her up for success from the start. I wanted to ensure our new addition had everything she needed to develop and thrive. I saw myself as her leader.

While there are many traits of a great leader, the best leaders in my opinion, are the ones who lead by example. If we were in Cocoa’s dog world, they lead “the pack” and the pack understands their strength.  They are present and highly engaged.

The best leaders are also consistent in their decisions. Consistency is important because it creates stability and trust in followers.  When a leader is consistent, people know what to expect.  For Cocoa, we’ve developed a consistent structure and are clear on good actions vs. bad.

The best leaders also do a great job in investing in their team and creating a culture of continuous learning.  Leaders understand that when they surround themselves with people who are the best they can be, the organization thrives and employees feel valued. For Cocoa, a series of puppy classes are helping us with a whole host of learning opportunities.  We are committed to investing in her training and also learning right along with her.

Finally, the best leaders understand the value of recognition and reward.  Many times, with the stress and demands of the organization we forget the importance of celebrating the accomplishments.  It’s important to take time for a few words of recognition and reward for a job well done.  Our sweet Cocoa appreciates a good belly rub and small treat when she does well.  I don’t recommend the belly rub in business, but it sure makes our pup happy.

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