Unlikely Leadership Lessons

Unlikely Lessons

The more time I spend as a leader, the more I realize leadership lessons can often come from the most unlikely sources. Not long ago I wrote a post about learning from an unlikely source:

I really do think I am a decent loving husband. This year, however, I had to face the hard reality that I have been schooled in what it means to love my wife.

About 9 years ago we allowed someone into our home that…how do I say this nicely…I can’t…he was an idiot. Don’t get me wrong, he was my buddy, but he was an idiot.

Where do I start?

  • He thought the most dangerous people in the world wore UPS uniforms.
  • If I pulled in the garage, he would barely lift an eyelid, but his crying would deafen the neighborhood if my wife pulled in.
  • He would pick fights with a pit bull and lose every time.
  • Every time he ate he pushed all his food out of his bowl on the off chance there might be bacon grease in the bottom.

A Selfless Pursuit

He was a Harlequin Great Dane and to say he loved my wife is the understatement of the century. When my wife was home, he was rarely more than a few steps away from her and was often trying to sit in her lap.

Waiting For Momma

When my wife was not home, he was a mess. He wouldn’t eat and he would mope until she returned. In addition to the deafening cries, several doors were destroyed when he was impatiently “waiting” for her during the 30 seconds it could take for my wife to gather her things out of the car and come in the house.

His pursuit of my wife never changed. He could be receiving praise for being a good boy. Or he could be in the middle of a scolding for eating an entire birthday cake minutes before guests were to arrive. It didn’t seem to matter. His love for my wife and the way he pursued her never changed.

About a month ago he modeled this pursuit for the last time. My wife was going up and down the stairs getting herself and the boys ready for a busy day. In the middle of all the commotion he found my wife, got as close to her as he could and he took his last breath. The last act of his life was a pursuit of my wife. In what it means to unconditionally love my wife, you might say I was enlightened by an idiot.”

This made for a sappy tribute to our pup on social media, but I wonder if there may have been more to this lesson, even outside our home.

Finding Unlikely Lessons

As leaders move up the proverbial ladder, it’s not uncommon for us to look at a person’s title or position in determining the value of a lesson to be learned. We often hang on every word of someone with elevated status, but we ignore lessons to be learned from our everyday interactions.

I’m not saying we should ignore the wisdom of the leadership greats, but it is just as important to look for leadership lessons from unlikely sources. The checkout line at the grocery store. Your child’s 3rd-grade classroom. Your daily commute. Even those we lead can teach us valuable leadership lessons.

I learned the theory of Level 5 leadership from the research presented by Jim Collins (1), but I wonder if our Harlequin Great Dane painted just as clear of a picture of what it means to have an unwavering resolve for something other than yourself. If I can learn from a goofy pup, maybe I need to be on the lookout for leadership lessons from even the most unlikely sources.


1 – https://hbr.org/2001/01/level-5-leadership-the-triumph-of-humility-and-fierce-resolve-2
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