3 Qualities of Leadership from My Golden Retriever

Leadership-Cappuccino-Golden Retriever


Every dog has a different personality, even within the same breed. We have had two Golden Retrievers over the past 13 years. Taffy was our dog who got us to Italy and back. You can read more about her here. Cappuccino is our current Golden Retriever, who will celebrate her second birthday on the 26th. (You think I am kidding about a celebration–but my kids and wife will make sure she is celebrated) She is our Christmas Golden.

Taffy and Cappuccino are very different dogs. But they do carry some similar traits. There are three characteristics that I have observed over time that make for quality leadership reflection.


Many breeds are curious by nature, but a Golden Retriever is supremely curious. Any sound from outside will spark an immediate reaction. Any new object within the home, or even an out-of-place item, will cause a sensory speculation that must be satisfied. At this time of year, a wrapped present sets the stage for sniffing, surveying–and hopefully tearing–to discover the contents inside. House guests are welcomed beyond measure as they must be greeted with all manner of tail wagging and licks. This supreme curiosity may arouse excitement, fear, or great caution–but nothing must be ignored.

The curious leader is an aware leader. 

We too need to be attuned to the unusual noise, the new element in “the room” that could change everything, and especially those we lead. Curiosity leans into the unknown. Curiosity discovers. The unknown may startle us, cause us anxiety, or even fear. But curiosity also leads to possibility. Leaders chase what’s possible. Aware leaders are curious leaders.


I know this will surprise you, but Retrievers retrieve. Our Cappuccino will retrieve from sunup to sundown if you will supply the throws. As soon as she has had her breakfast, Cappuccino will bring you her tennis ball and beg you to throw it in the backyard. She will cajole you, bug you, and frustrate you. But you will throw the ball eventually–even if it is to just get some energy out of her. She will outlast you.

To be tenacious is to not be easily stopped. It is the essence of determination. 

The measure of a leader is what will stop them. By definition, leaders move things forward. Leaders change the status quo. Leaders push against what is to get to what could be. And there will always be barriers. Tenacious leaders draw energy through calling and conviction. They are driven by a vision. If they are leaders of true character, that vision is for someone else’s good. But they are never easily stopped.


Golden Retrievers are nothing if not grateful. Taffy would show her gratitude through leaning on you and her low-level grunts. Cappuccino demonstrates her thankfulness with a gentle lick. It is a very conscious move on her part. Immediately after breakfast, or dinner, I can expect the grateful lick. She is also quite happy to show you her gratitude when you return home. These are social animals.

Gratitude keeps us grounded and humble.

For a leader to say “Thank You” is to acknowledge that he or she is less than omnicompetent. Leadership is about influencing others. It is also about serving others. No leader has ever tasted success without the help of many others. To be grateful is to be appreciative. The more specific you can be, the more powerful your gratitude–and the greater your influence. Leaders who are worthy of being followed are leaders who say “Thank You.”

Are you a Golden Retriever leader?

5 for Leadership (11/29/14)

medium_10784025124In this 5 for Leadership we explore more deeply the art of gratitude and what it means to be truly thankful. Every leader needs to exhibit an attitude of thanksgiving. I hope these posts inspire you towards that end.

10 Reasons You Lose Gratitude and 16 Ways To Find It  “Gratitude is a form of happiness. Ungratefulness, unhappiness, and ugliness travel in the same circles. Ungratefulness paints everything ugly.” Dan Rockwell gives us some very practical advice on this critical virtue.

A Leader’s Reasons To Be Thankful  Art Petty provides 11 reasons leaders should be thankful for what we get to do and the influence we have–the privilege of serving.

3 Reasons To Be A More Thankful Person  “Ever wonder the secret to being thankful? I believe the secret to being thankful is in learning to be more content. We give thanks out of a heart overflowing with gratefulness. A full heart naturally produces gratitude. How do we do that?” Ron Edmondson taps some wisdom from the Apostle Paul for learning the secret.

What Is Gratitude?  “True gratitude begins with deep humility. True gratitude changes us. True gratitude transforms our relationships. True gratitude changes the game.” See what else Karin Hurt has to say about this necessary leadership trait.

5 Quotes from G.K. Chesterton on Gratitude and Thanksgiving  Justin Taylor gives us some timely and thought provoking quotes from one of England’s premier writers. Chesterton also was known as a great lay theologian, philosopher, poet, and journalist. These quotes will expand your definition of thanksgiving.

There are the 5 for this week. I hope you have had a beautiful and reflective Thanksgiving. May this holiday season be fruitful in your leadership life.

(photo credit)

5 for Leadership (11/30/13)

images-4Here is a new 5 for your Thanksgiving weekend! We have some reflections on the next Billy Graham, hopelessness, working with a multi-generational workforce, and–of course–so thoughts on leadership and gratitude. Enjoy.

7 Ways to Defeat Hopelessness  I needed this today. Great insights from the Leadership Freak. A must read.

Humble and Grateful-The Truly Effective Leader  This was found on Linked2Leadership. It comes from Paul Simkins. “We as humans tend to want only others to sacrifice pride, ambition, control, power, and other temporal vanities and be humble before us so that we may benefit from “humility.” We often don’t want to be humble and feel like we are at some sort of loss.” This is a practical and thoughtful read.

Thanksgiving: The Struggling Heart  This is another gem from Lolly Daskal. “As human beings, we possess the desire to know ourselves and find meaning, but the truth is life is often difficult and the last thing we want is to be grateful. However the grateful heart holds the release from the roots of our suffering and the liberation of our pain.”

Decoding The Truth of Leading Multi-Generational Workforces  “When it comes to discussions on the various challenges leaders need to address in today’s fast-changing global economy, there’s one topic that merits a proper assessment as to whether or not it’s really an issue for today’s organizations. And that is the issue of how to effectively manage a multi-generational workforce.” Tanveer Naseer has some great insights on this popular topic.

The Next Billy Graham  “The story is told that, during the International Congress on World Evangelization at Lausanne in 1974, someone asked Billy Graham, “Who will be the next Billy Graham?” In answer, the nonpareil evangelist motioned to the panorama of Christian leaders around him, saying, “They will.”‘ Chris Castaldo highlights not the “who but the “how” of fulfilling the legacy of spiritual giant Billy Graham.

There are the 5 this week. During your holiday break take a few minutes and click away.


5 for Leadership (9/14/13)

images-2Here is a fresh installment of 5 for Leadership. There are thoughts on student leadership, leadership perspective, social media and leadership, the nature of being over connected, and the power of gratitude.

On Leadership, Social Media, and Building Brands  Here is an insightful post from Linked2Leadership. “So, one might ask, how exactly does an employee’s personal brand affect the company he works for? Your followers, friends, and circle of connections see what you’re sharing — they’re paying attention, too.”

The Power of Thank You  “Gratitude is a behavior pattern. Be honest with yourself. Have you been doing enough to thank the people who have helped you – even the little things? If not, now is the ideal time to ingrain the habit.” Take a look at this important post from the Building Personal Strength blog.

Welcome to the 72 Hour Work Week  “How many hours do you think the average American professional works each week? If you think 40, 50 or even 60, think again. For many, 72 hours is the new norm.” Jennifer Deal shares some wonderful insights on the new normal. Check it out on the HBR blog.

Rethinking The Student’s Place in Missions  This post is by Samuel Tran–listen to his opening words, “Most college students like me hear “missions” and immediately think of handing out tracts, putting up buildings, or feeding impoverished kids. While I do not question the enthusiasm or sincerity of those who hold this view, I cannot help but wonder if we are missing far greater opportunities to effectively share the gospel.”

9 Things You Should Know About The 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing  This horrible event took place in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. Betsy Childs shares some great perspective that we as leaders need to consider. History should inform how we lead today in every facet of life. This is must read.

There are the 5 for this week. Lead inspired.