Our story began three years ago in the rolling hills of Boyd County, Kentucky. It’s your typical boy meets girl, they fall in love and live happily ever after story. Except the boy is an adopted pup named Louie, and I am the girl—a leadership expert…or so I thought.

While I have a tremendous amount of leadership experience and have worked with a number of leadership gurus, I have never learned about leadership like I have from this little guy.

Louie was in Boyd County, Kentucky and made his way to Cincinnati through a number of shelters. He was a sweet, seemingly docile, hound. Although I love dogs, I had made the decision not to get another one for a number of reasons. That is until I encountered an abandoned mutt with big brown eyes and a sweet temperament (at least in his crate). I tossed my concerns aside, brought him home and named him Louie DiStasi. I soon discovered that Louie brought a lot of emotional baggage to the relationship. He demonstrated behaviors that deeply 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’m not afraid of tough lessons, and I’m always looking for ways to improve my leadership skills. But working with Louie was challenging. Bottom line, Louie needed acceptance, consistency, discipline and above all, unconditional love. And I wasn’t quite sure I was equipped to provide all that.

I loved Louie when he was a good little dog, sweet and absolutely adorable. But I didn’t love him so much when he started to act out. It was a struggle, and I had to make a choice to love him at that point. That’s when I decided to be very intentional about loving this abandoned pup, in spite of his baggage.

Employees can be like Louie! They bring a lot of baggage to the job and may be hard to love at times.One of the most important values, if not the most important value, for any human being is the need to feel loved. All of us have this innate desire yet it is one of the most elusive human needs. I believe CS Lewis said it best; “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.”

Love is not about a warm fuzzy feeling, but love in action is important in leadership. When I bring up love in the workplace, I get a tremendous amount of pushback. People will say, “Don’t bring it up, you’ll have HR issues, etc.,” which makes me want to challenge them about what they really understand love to mean.

Let me list out what I believe the characteristics of leaders who display love in actionare (Check off the ones you believe you demonstrate):
 They are patient.
 They are kind.
 They aren’t envious.
 They aren’t boastful.
 They aren’t prideful.
 They don’t dishonor other people.
 They aren’t self-seeking.
 They aren’t easily angered.
 They don’t keep records of wrongs.
 They loath any kind of an injustice but rejoice whenever truth prevails
 They’re a protective person
 They are a trustworthy person
 They are a hopeful person
 And they always persevere
Those are the characteristics that I think leaders should display when they are working with their people—baggage and all. That’s what love in action truly looks like. How many characteristics did you check off? Perhaps it would be wise to ask your employees to check off the characteristics they see displayed in you.

Love is the first step of the leadership model Louie and I developed which spells LOUIE:
Objectives and Goals
Understand Others
Invest In Others
Empower Others.

We’ll share more about each step in the next few blogs.

While I am thrilled to share with you that Louie is a transformed dog, I believe I am the one who has been transformed into a better leader because of the leadership lessons I’ve learned from a little adopted dog named Louie.

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