They may be mere humans, but I love my pack. Though my pack members aren’t very fast and lack superior scenting abilities, they’re somehow still good hunters – my food dish is always full! They also give excellent belly rubs and are fun to play with. In fact, each member has unique skills, that when combined, make a great team. But, every great team needs an effective leader.
Although the humans believe they’re in control, as you can clearly see from this photo, I am the pack leader. As any leader knows, it’s not easy being in charge. So, I did some sniffing around and found some tips to help you bring your pack together and make the most of their attributes.
1. Lead by example. There is an old adage that goes like this, “Your team will do what you do well half as well, and will do what you do poorly twice as poorly.” In other words, leaders must show, not tell. If you want your employees to be team players, you must also be one. If punctuality is important, make sure you arrive on time or early to meetings. (For more, read “5 Ways to Lead by Example at Work.”
A great illustration of “practicing what you preach,” is Elon Musk’s recent response to employee injuries. He not only sent an email expressing his concern and asking injured employees to help him understand what needs to be done to make things better, but also volunteered to work on the production line and perform the same task. He went on to say that all managers should do the same. In a good pack, the members need to know that the alpha has their back!
2. Communicate effectively. All animals that live and work together require communication to coordinate, cooperate and reinforce bonds. Within a wolf or dog pack, communication helps maintain social stability, create solidarity, teach youngsters, and warn of danger, helping the pack to survive. The workplace is no different. Great leaders understand the importance of two-way communication. They know that listening is just as important as being heard and understood. In fact, a study from Dale Carnegie Leadership Training revealed that 88% of employees said they value bosses who listen to them, and encourage open and honest communication.
3. Show appreciation and praise often. Personally, I adore it when my humans tell me I’m a good boy and give me treats (I just can’t get enough!). As it turns out, people like it, too! In the same study by Dale Carnegie, 87% of workers said it’s important for leaders to show sincere appreciation for their staff, and 86% of those surveyed want their bosses to value their work. Nearly 80% believe inspiring leaders encourage and help employees improve, while almost three-quarters of the employees surveyed said great bosses praise their work. Of course, providing treats is always appreciated!
4. Be trustworthy. You could be the most competent leader in the world, but you won’t be successful if your team doesn’t trust you. I mean, if the leader of a wolf pack is an expert rabbit hunter, but doesn’t share his catch or know-how with the rest of the members, what good is he? Several studies show that trustworthiness is actually rated as the most important attribute of great leaders. Determining trustworthiness involves two questions: “Do you have good intentions towards me (i.e., do you have my best interests in mind)?” and “Do you have what it takes to act on those intentions?” When there is trust, communication improves, ideas flow more freely, and employees are more willing to embrace change. The bottom line: if your team doesn’t trust you, you won’t get their best effort.
5. Stay humble. There’s a difference between a leader and a boss. No one likes to be bossed around or talked down to (that can lead to growling and snarling), but people (and dogs) appreciate good leadership. Leaders build people up instead of tearing them down. They’re comfortable sharing the spotlight and crediting others. Leaders aren’t afraid to make mistakes or admit that they’ve made them. I’ve found that people will forgive you for making a mistake (like chewing up a shoe for example), if you come clean and learn from your mishap (shoes=bad, rawhide bones=good). Missteps can be great lessons, and making mistakes means that people are trying new things, which is necessary for growth.
6. Never stop improving. As John F. Kennedy said, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Great leaders – as well as great people and dogs – are constantly learning and striving to improve themselves. For instance, I try to learn a new human word every day, even though your language is very confusing! In addition to boosting their own skills, good leaders are always looking for ways to enrich employees and enhance the company. Start by asking yourself two basic questions: “What is my team’s biggest challenge or pain point?” and “What can I do to make things better?”
Sure, competence, confidence, and vision are all good qualities for a leader to have, but experts say they’re not the most important. I’ve learned that the biggest dog with the loudest bark is not always the best pack leader. In fact, leadership is more about inspiration, than intimidation. With that, I think I’ll go inspire my pack to go for a nice long walk.