Recently, I posted a picture on social media of me with one of my dogs and a brief comment about how I often talk to my dog and how I believe we can learn so much from our furry friends. The flood of comments back got me thinking a little bit deeper about how our pets DO exhibit leadership qualities and how we need to pay closer attention.

Throughout my career as an HR Leader and Executive, I’ve spent many hours of my life coaching and training others on what it takes to be a strong leader. I’ve developed and facilitated programs and created more slide decks than I care to remember. Now I realize that all I needed to do was bring my dog into the office, allow folks to observe her behavior, document their observations, and then figure out how to apply them to leadership skills.

What jumps out at me is not necessarily how obvious this is, but how naturally these qualities exist in our pets. There is nothing forced about how a dog behaves, and they are willing to share with us if we pause and observe.

When allowed to fully express themselves and do what is natural for them, there is a grace and pure authenticity in their alignment to self and nature. They live in a state of abundance and the moment, not worrying about their next meal or their next playtime…they enjoy what’s right in front of them and make the most of every worthwhile opportunity presented.

Here are 10 behaviors I believe every leader can learn from their dogs:

  1. To always show up- no matter what. Dogs come when called and are at the ready.
  2. To meet people wherever they are and provide support. Dogs lick your (emotional & physical) wounds if needed.
  3. Not to judge. Dogs have no conscious or unconscious bias or prejudice.  They take you as you are and base your relationship on how you treat them and show up.
  4. To always listen. Dogs will look you in the eye and listen attentively to you, and only you.
  5. To watch for and respond to non-verbal clues. Dogs are masters at reading the room, energy and body language, tone, and eye contact, and they pay attention to the cues and respond accordingly.
  6. To love to play. Dogs never miss an opportunity to run, snuggle, play with their favorite toy, or get a good tummy rub. (although this may not be a welcomed ask for leaders…haha!)
  7. Not to hold grudges. Dogs, shake off the tough times, forgive quickly and move on.
  8. To only escalate responses, as necessary. Dogs bark when there is trouble or need your attention, and their bite is a last resort-in most cases, bites only happen after serious provocation.
  9. To always have your team’s back. Dogs will defend you and do whatever it takes to protect you.
  10. To rest when needed. Dogs listen to their bodies, and rest when they are tired.

There are so many parallels between great dogs and great leaders, and dogs do it all simply for the joy of each interaction, love for their owners and the pure exuberance of life.

Next time I facilitate a leadership bootcamp, I’m going to seriously consider a partnership with my local Humane Society. Even if we don’t gain major leadership skills, we will have a wonderful time and at least the four-legged leaders will get tummy rubs!