Leadership Lessons from the Dog

I am unashamedly a dog person. Throughout my life, I have been owned by four dogs: Poochie, Stewart, Clara, and Mabel. 

When each of the first three died, I swore I would never get another dog. The pain of loss was too great. But each time, I have caved to the family pressure.

And I must admit that our house feels more like our home when there is a dog in it. 

As I walked Mabel over the weekend, it clicked that dogs can teach us a lot about being better leaders and, ironically, better humans. 

First of all, if you are tired, take a nap. 

When I was in college, a professor said, “Sometimes, the most spiritual thing you can do is take a nap.” 

I thought he was nuts.

Now 30 years later, it makes sense.

The essence of spiritual life is to love well. The essence of good leadership is to love the people you lead and serve. And you do not love well when you are tired. 

Being tired increases pessimism, makes easy things difficult, and contributes to a sense of being overwhelmed.

It’s remarkable how my to-do list seems more manageable after a good night’s sleep or a quick nap.

Secondly, greet others with enthusiasm. 

There are plenty of “grumpy Gus” dogs in our neighborhood. They seem angry at the world and everyone who walks by. 

I suspect that even those dogs greet their owners with enthusiasm. 

My good friend’s dad is the most optimistic person I know. Every day to him is the “best day ever.”  When he comes to town, I love seeing him. He is genuinely thrilled to see me. 

My dog does the same with our family—every morning. 

I need to be more like my dog and my friend’s dad.

Finally, be present.

I hate how distracted I feel on a daily basis.

As I was walking my dog, it struck me how PRESENT she is on our walks. She is taking in the sights, the sounds, and, most importantly, the smells. She is fully alive and in the moment and rarely checks her cell phone.

I wish I could say the same. While walking, I still often habitually check for text messages and notifications. I need to leave my phone at home more and be alive in the moment.

Labor Day signifies the end of summer. As we transition into fall,  the last third of the year, may we all learn from the dogs. 

  • Get some rest. 
  • Greet others with enthusiasm. 
  • Be present. 

And if you are a cat person, well . . . . I guess taking a nap still applies. 


Brian Rutherford

Brian Rutherford is the Director of Content and Product Strategy for Leadercast. Brian has been telling stories professionally for twenty-five years. Stories that inspire people to see themselves and the world differently. Stories that challenge people to take meaningful action in the world.

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