Lead, follow, or get out of the way.

We can’t go forward if you don’t move.

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Miss Bonnie

At least that’s what I said to my dog this morning. Then realized it applies to many situations in life.

She is old, but gets so excited about going out, she hops like a baby goat. In front of me. As I am trying to get to her leash and the door to take her out.

She is only a miniature schnauzer, but in fear of bodily harm to both or one of us, I have to wait for her to move before I can get to said leash and door. And so these thoughts came to me.

If you want to lead, you have to make sure you are in front. Otherwise, you wind up like the slogan on the hat we gave my then boss when I worked at an Advertising agency. “I’m their leader. Which way did they go.”

If you are indeed in the lead, it is urgent that you lead going forward. Standing still or jumping in circles won’t get you or your followers anywhere. Not that I am against standing still. Learning to simply BE is a vital life skill. Sometimes slowing down and contemplating is how you lead. Jumping in front of people like a baby goat is probably not as effective, though, as either moving forward or standing in the stillness. Although it would no doubt be entertaining.

Karim Manjra on Unsplash

Once I maneuver around her and get her on the leash and outside, she most definitely takes the lead. This can involve my following at a good pace, as she appears to be frantically tracking something, and stopping suddenly stock still to sniff the ground or watch the trees. (She is the one sniffing the ground. I use the opportunity to focus on the sky and trees). In either case, we get lots of benefits of both moving and standing still. I am content to let her lead, most of the time. She forces me to move and to give myself time to contemplate. It is nearly impossible to check the phone, text or email while moving, although I am occasionally foolish enough to try. She breaks me of that. She can be a good leader.

Bonnie in a rare calm moment

When we are going to the groomers, the vet, or my sister’s house, a little more maneuvering and negotiating is required. She is deaf and her sight is becoming impaired, so convincing her I am the leader isn’t easy. But I’ll be honest, it never has been. She is an alpha dog.

So what do you do when one or more of those following you are alphas? Convincing others you are a leader can involve listening closely to their ideas. I have to be in tune with my dog to both follow her and lead her. I have learned her body language and she has learned mine. You can do the same with people. Most alphas in relationships or the workplace have some fear of being dismissed or ignored. Give them honest attention, and they are more likely to attend to you.

Of course, sometimes to lead, you have to let followers know there is a reason you are the leader. In my Bonnie’s case, it is because I am the supplier of food, shelter and her well-being. Since she is only cognizant of the food aspect, I can lead her with treats. In the case of people, some aspects of “treats” can work. A software company called Surprise H.R. sells software to the Human Resources departments to companies, or directly to companies without HR departments. The software can be used to schedule rewards and acknowledgments of employees, including their birthdays and work anniversaries. But their main focus is to schedule and provide “random” rewards, perks that arrive with no special reason other than the person is an employee. This is innovative in that it doesn’t fit the traditional reward/punishment model. Instead, it employs operant conditioning theory, which indicates that random rewards spark more consistent performance. Plus, it just makes people feel good.

Ultimately though, a good leader has to inspire and elicit respect. The best way to elicit respect is to give it. I respect my dog’s knowledge of her needs, and of the great outdoors. She respects my knowledge to meet her needs. She inspires me to be a better, more caring person. I’m not sure she really respects me, but hey, metaphors aren’t perfect. She has learned to read my “come here” gesture, and obeys it when she sees it, just as she used to obey the “come” command when she could hear me. Now that I think of it, that does show respect. But I earned her cooperation by never leading her astray. That is the best way to earn respect and keep it. And that makes a good leader.

For more guidance on being a leader, look me up on Newchoicesguide.com

Psychotherapist, Hypnotherapist. Leans Left. Mindfulness practioner before it was cool. M.Ed., LPC. Carolsantafe93@gmail.com.

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