Which Dog Drives Your Leadership?

I’d like to share a story with you that has had a huge impact on my life and on the lives of many of my clients.

A young man once approached a First Nations elder and asked him to describe the inner struggle people face.  The elder explained… “Inside of me there are two dogs that are always fighting.  The Bad Dog has no belief in myself, is always afraid, and is determined that things will turn out badly.  The Good Dog believes in me, is kind and knows that things will turn out well in the end.”  Knowing the two dogs are always fighting, the young man curiously asked the elder “Which dog wins the fight?”  To which the elder replied…“The one I feed the most.”

We all have a Good Dog and a Bad Dog inside of us.  And my questions to you are…

Which Dog are you feeding?  And more importantly, which Dog is tugging on the leash of your leadership approach?

Like most of you I suspect, there are times when I get caught up in what’s going wrong in my business and life in general, and if you were to challenge me about being “negative”, I would counter that I was holding a “realistic and balanced” view of the way things are.  But…when I have the presence of mind to stand back and take a look at how I’m seeing and more importantly, reacting to my world, it becomes pretty clear that I am, in fact, feeding my Bad Dog.

“So, I’m feeding my Bad Dog. So what?” You already know it makes you feel terrible.  Sure, there is a light at the end of the tunnel but you’re convinced it’s a train!  When you feel tomorrow is another day, but it will still be raining, you start to question your self-worth, your ability and your confidence.  You engage with the world from a place of fear and self-doubt.

But what about the impact on your leadership?   Can you remember the last time you made decisions coming from a place of fear and self-doubt?  No doubt your natural response of “fight or flight” came into play.

From a leadership perspective, “flight” looks like indecision and avoidance. Everything requires more data, more input or can wait until later… The more these self-preservation tactics come into play, the more you flounder, the weaker you appear and the more you undermine your ability to lead others.

“Fight” on the other hand manifests as argumentative, combative and autocratic.  If feeding your Bad Dog has you afraid enough to feel like you are continually in an EMERGENCY situation, niceties go out the window.  You say and do whatever you need to do to stop the ship from sinking.  And you suffer the impact this has on the people around you.  People feel disempowered, they resent having to respond to your frantic frenzy, and their creativity and innovation shut down – often for a period that lasts well beyond your feelings of fear!

If you feed your Good Dog and come from a calm place of knowing your worth, you’ll be able to lead from a place of confidence and authenticity.  (As a huge upside, you’ll also find it easier to get out of bed in the morning). People will be inspired by both your calmness and the respect you demonstrate for their capabilities. You’ll inspire energy and great ideas and you’ll allow the natural skills and talents of those around you to shine.

So how do you go about feeding your Good Dog?

Here are a few tips for you to try…

  • Simply be aware of the Bad Dog. Great leaders take the time to reflect each day on their mindsets. They stand back from their day-to-day struggles and consider not only what they are doing but who they are being as they go about their day.
  • Realize you have choices. When you’re tempted to resign yourself to seeing the worst in a situation, be aware that at every moment in time you do have the choice to see the positive, the good and the opportunity.
  • Get some support. Seek the company of supporters who see things positively – emotions are contagious. Create a community of people around you who are committed to feeding their Good Dogs.  And if you’re able to invest in some professional support, a certified coach will help you to hone your ability to come at the world from a place of confidence and positivity.
So I wish you the very best in feeding your Good Dog!  Please let me know how it goes!