Even though he is named after the tree where Buddha is said to have achieved enlightenment, Bodhi is anything but Zen. In fact, Bodhi is often riddled with fear and anxiety. His anxiety seems to be over his internal struggle to on one hand protect his pack and on the other hand his self awareness of the fact that he is a colossal baby.
This internal struggle reached its pinnacle when one day he bit an exterminator who was helping rid our home of carpenter ants. Fortunately, the gentleman was not seriously hurt and was very understanding but it became clear we had to do something.
Learning about Pack Leadership
Enter Bob Midwood, founder Golden Dog Training. Bob was referred to us by folks we trusted and had a great reputation for helping dog owners better understand their dogs. If you have every watched Cesar Milan, also known as the Dog Whisperer, you have probably heard about the whole concept of becoming the pack leader. Bob gave us several very practical steps to reinforce pack order with Bodhi (with Bodhi at the bottom of the hierarchy) and although he is still not perfect, Bodhi is noticeably calmer and generally a great dog. As we have reinforced more that we are in charge to Bodhi, he can relax more knowing that “we got this”.
One of the more interesting things I took from Bob’s lessons was a very common misconception of pack leaders. Bob has spent a lot of timing looking at the behaviors of not only domesticated dogs but also their wild ancestors. One thing Bob noticed was that the most successful pack leaders in the wild, those with the largest packs controlling the largest territories, were not lead by the largest or most aggressive members of the pack. I had assumed, probably like many, that wild packs would be ruled by a sort of “might makes right” leadership structure. However, the most common trait that Bob noticed was that the most successful pack leaders were clear and direct. Not the biggest or the baddest, not the most domineering, the most vocal, the most politically connected, but the clearest and most direct.
What struck me was the applicability to leading people. I personally think leading people is much more complicated than our furry friends, however, I think there are lessons that can be applied to leading teams in our personal and professional lives. We don’t follow those with the biggest bark, or even the biggest bite for that matter. Being both clear and direct is important without a doubt, especially in times of uncertainty, stress, or doubt. It takes away the ambiguity; it instills a sense of confidence. Good leaders of people, however, go beyond that. In addition to being clear and direct, good leaders instill a sense of purpose, a reason that goes beyond the specifics of what and how. They provide a reason for being and the inspiration to go above and beyond.
So, thanks for the insight into leadership Bodhi, now go take a rest. Good boy!