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5 leadership lessons I learned from my dogs

Oct. 3, 2017 | by Charles Stone

I love dogs. We've owned as many as four at one time. One currently makes her home with us. Lulu is a combination of a cat, a rat, and a dog. She's as quick as a cat and looks like a hybrid rat-dog. She was a stray when we took her in “for just a few days until we find her owner.” We became the owners. 

On the other hand, P-nut was our registered Chihuahua. I had the agonizing job of taking him to the vet last year to have him put to sleep. But he was a funny doggie. He was missing most of his teeth. And sometimes his lip got stuck on his remaining molars so that he sported an Elvis look (no kidding). When I reflect on our relationship with our dogs, I've learned these five lessons from them that apply to me as a leader.

1. Consistent: They are pretty much the same day in and day out. They don't get moody. They're not angry one minute and kind the next. They "show up" the same way every time I come home: they are glad to see me.

  • Leaders should be consistent with their followers. Your followers and/or staff shouldn't have to wonder who's going to show up each day. They shouldn't have to wonder if you'll be in a good mood or a bad mood.

2. Grateful: When I give them a treat, they are always glad to get it. Their tails wag, their body shakes with glee, and they truly appreciate that chicken sliver or doggie biscuit I toss them.

  • Leaders should be the most grateful people in every church, ministry, or organization. After all, we get the privilege of leading and influencing others toward a cause greater than ourselves. God puts leaders in places of leadership, and when He does, gratefulness to Him should fill our hearts.

3. Baggage laden: This one may seem odd, but it's true. When we picked up Lulu off the streets when we lived in California, we had no idea when or where she was born. All we knew was that she was skittish and skinny. We loved her, yet if I raise my hand too quickly, she cowers. Apparently, her prior owners beat her.

  • Every leader carries his or her own baggage. We don't emerge from childhood without some broken places. Healthy leaders aren't afraid to discover their broken places. When leaders become self-aware of them, they seek help to repair them and realize that God can redeem them for good.

4. Content: Both P-nut and Lulu modeled contentment. I don't believe they had a worry in the world. I believe they knew that all their needs would be met. So, they didn't fret about where their next meal or comfy blanket would come from (they have several).

  • Leaders trust the Lord that He will provide, care for, and guide them in any circumstance. Hebrews 13:5 reminds us that “... "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

5. Restful: Both dogs knew how to rest. In fact, they took multiple naps every day. When they got tired, they slept.

  • Good leaders know and practice Sabbath rhythms. While they certainly work hard, they also get enough sleep, take days off, take vacations, and quiet their souls before the Lord daily. As one friend often says, “We must divert daily, withdraw weekly and abandon annually.”

If you have a dog, what lessons have you learned?

Photo source: istock 


Charles Stone

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church (London, Ontario) and founder of StoneWell Ministries. He has authored four books including, People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership (IVP 2014), and Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry (Abingdon, May 2015). He is passionate about intersecting insight about the brain with Biblical insight. He posts regularly at www.charlesstone.com.



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