Leadership lessons from a Greyhound.

The lesson: get out of the rut you’ve been running in, look around, learn as much as you can.

The greyhound is our Belle.  She came to live with us after 3 years as a racer (terrible life!!)  We noticed when we first got her that almost EVERYTHING was out of her realm of experience.  She had no language skills, had never been in a house (it was very disconcerting) and even when she ran in the backyard, she only turned to the left…think of a racetrack.

We realized that all she had ever done in her life was to live in a crate and get out to race.  Pee, poo, run, repeat.

As Belle became more aware of her surroundings she literally began to see more.  Her singular training as a racer had her look straight ahead, aware of other dogs only when they were in front over her.  There was no other input.  Anything not directly in front of her basically simply didn’t exist.  That was her world and she executed well in it.

It didn’t work so well when she moved in with us.  They it occurred to us that our job was to introduce the breadth of possibilities to her: stairs, dog parks, even her own name.  They don’t teach dogs their names – it’s a distraction.  The more she learned, the more curious she became.   She learned she could move from one room to another, that the doorbell meant to run to the front door (rather than the hallway where the noise actually was) and when she ran in the backyard, she could turn any direction she liked.

So where’s the leadership lesson?  Think of a worker – an individual contributor: someone who is really good at what they do – so good that their attention becomes narrow.  Focus stays on those things that pertain to getting the job done, life becomes predictable and its easy to run an auto pilot.  Do that too long and you forget how to turn right when you’re running – a greyhound racing reference – you lose the ability to see other ways to do things.  In fact, in business, the distinction is between 10 years experience versus one year’s experience 10 times.

So to embrace leadership, no matter what the job, means to look broadly, be curious and not get lost in “rules”. A leader gets above the task to look around at the bigger picture. Leadership is a “way of being” as much as an activity. A “curious” way of being that is energizing, creative and well, strategic!  And you can be  in that way of being no matter where you are.   Lead from your seat, lead from the corner office, lead from the trenches… being a leader is more perspective than title.

When Belle moved in with us, her world got bigger.  Actually, the world was the same.  What changed was her ability to see it.  Sometimes it was scary, but look at her now and you know its more fun.  Deciding to embrace leadership can do the same thing – it can be scary at first.  But get past that and its fun!

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