Giving Mixed Signals in Leadership

I adopted my dog, Louie, almost nine years ago. At that time, we embarked on a journey I was unprepared for. Admittedly, our journey was not an easy one. When I first adopted Louie, he displayed many challenging behaviors that made me question my decision to adopt him.

As Louie and I journeyed together, I had no idea I was walking through specific stages of leadership. I wanted this dog to be loving and loyal. Many times, I will admit that seemed almost impossible, but we persevered.

Louie has come a long way, but there is still one behavior that I cannot train or discipline out of him, and that is how he greets guests at the door. He’s awful. He growls, barks, jumps, and will even grab a piece of clothing. He never bites, but he can be scary. Also, I have tried everything from making him stay in his place (never works), to keeping him in the kitchen until the guest comes in (hmm, works okay), to just keeping him out of sight.

One day a friend of mine came to drop some things off and say hello to Louie. Louie has known her for years, but he did his usual bark and scary growl. I gave him a firm, “Settle,” but she was behind me talking sweetly to him. He paid attention to neither of us. Why should he? We were giving him mixed signals. He made a decision to go his own way, and it wasn’t working for any of the parties involved.

We finally ignored him, and he eventually did settle, but this incident gave me PAWS as I thought about leadership. As leaders are we sending mixed signals to those we work with? Are we firm and then sweet and then firm, causing confusion about our leadership style? Our employees can be somewhat like Louie, who needs consistency to build trust. I’ve become much more aware of being consistent when working with Louie because having him trust me is the overarching objective to our time together.

We’re still working on his behavior at the door, but one thing is certain: Louie has certainly become a loving and loyal dog

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