I recently adopted a dog two years after I decided not to have any more pets. But when I encountered this abandoned mutt, with big brown eyes and a sweet temperament, I knew I had to adopt him. I soon discovered that “Louie” brought a lot of emotional baggage to our relationship. He demonstrated behaviors that concerned me, and I immediately engaged a dog trainer. I quickly realized I needed training as much as Louie did, if not more so.
I’ve learned more about servant leadership from spending time with Louie than I have in a lifetime of leadership development; and here’s why:
- When I chose to adopt him, I chose the whole package—baggage and all. I quickly learned his macho behavior actually hid his fear and insecurity. Many times we, as leaders, hide behind fear and insecurity and try to act confident. I released that act many years ago. Louie is slowly learning this, as well, but it will take time, patience and love.
- As the Scripture says, love is patient, love is kind (1 Corinthians 13). As leaders, our teams need to know they are loved; that you care more about them than just the processes, plans and bottom line. (Amazingly, the bottom line always improves when leaders love their employees!)
- Genuine love is not for the weak. It takes strength and courage. We are commanded to love one another. This is not an admonition commonly found in leadership manuals or in business schools; but without it, you will likely fail.
Despite his baggage, I’ve grown to love Louie. And because I’ve invested in him, he’s becoming a better dog. And I’m becoming a better leader! Love is the foundation of our relationships, and trust is a building block.