Leader of the pack – some tips from our canine friends

It’s well-known that dogs (ok and other pets – but mainly dogs surely!) can bring happiness and fulfilment into our lives. We can form deep bonds with them; they amuse us, cheer us up, push us to our limits, delight and charm us. They have the potential to make us better people too in terms of generosity and always putting someone else’s needs before our own.*

*pouring with rain but out we go for that walk, starving hungry but have to feed the pooch first… you dog owners out there just know.

In thinking about some correlations between leadership principles and dog training – as you do if you work at Maier – this illustrates one straight off and that is the selfless leader with ego well under control. The needs of the business, your people and definitely the customer come first, your own needs as leader come later.

Empathic leaders work towards giving back to their company and not just their own personal success. We work with a particular CEO who, in forming a new Exec team, purposefully set his sights on recruiting a low ego team. Harder than it sounds but great results when successful.

Maier’s first-hand knowledge of leadership is pretty well known, but maybe our attempts to ‘lead a mini pack of dogs’ is not quite so out there. So, before we get into some more leadership traits and qualities that match up with owning and training canines , this feels like a wonderful opportunity for some dog spam. Meet Malcolm and Tilda…


Who’s the dominant one here then? Looks like young Malcolm doesn’t it? One year old bolshy bulldog pup, foisted on us by a family member struggling with doggy day care. Then there is Tilda, apparently taking a back seat here despite being the established 7 year old office dog, loved by all at Maier. But first impressions are deceptive, in fact it’s Tilda who is ultimately in charge, with Malc operating as office junior.

We had to work on expectations, boundaries and expected behaviours with consistency.  Believe it or not Tuckman’s model of Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing, a team development touch stone for many of us, has been so relevant.

As leader of the pack we cannot rely on our teams just automatically handling exits and entrances to the team line or getting the culture and ‘how we do things round here’ by osmosis or chance – it needs managing. The attentive leader comes into play here, being aware and sensitive to the team dynamics and different stages it needs to go through to hit performing.

The need for consistency, not turning a blind eye, setting out the ground rules, handling the rivalries and insecurities. Experience suggests that if you just try and turn  a blind eye and hope it will all sort itself out you’re going to get BITTEN! The best Exec teams we work with are those whose leaders see all of this as central to their role. And never, ever bully…

All dogs expect that there will be some obvious leadership in their “pack”, and most will look to their human family for guidance, rules, and protection.

It’s usually when we give mixed signals – or clear signs of weak or missing leadership – that dogs start to show stress over lack of a leader, and problems arise. Just replace the word ‘dogs’ here with ‘teams’.


It’s about clarity of leadership which you can trust in.

Dog behaviourists talk about pooches becoming more secure and at ease in their life and skin with a calm, confident, clear leader. Probably best not to do over kill on this but the message is one of constantly firefighting, over reacting, not helping to prioritise as leaders can be dangerous.

So, some tips that come straight from the world of dog trainers…

​‘A good, effective leader teaches with patience and empathy. A good, effective leader inspires trust and confidence. Through basic training, and accepting your role as leader for your dog, you set yourself up as the person your dog looks to – and trusts – to make the right decisions.

Some dogs seem to cry out for a clear, obvious leader to follow. Others are satisfied if you’re not blatantly handing them the keys to the kingdom’.

Flex and adapt to the individual

No need to take all this too seriously, I’ve had 3 clients this week saying how much they appreciate our sense of fun and levity at Maier (in the right places obviously!). Celebrations, humour, not taking ourselves too seriously – all have their place in how we communicate and lead. Oh yep and TREATS! Couldn’t do this piece without mentioning those.

PS – According to the Kennel Club 70% of people think dogs can alleviate stress in the workplace, 67% said they make the atmosphere more friendly, 51% said dogs improve morale and job satisfaction, 45% said dog friendly policies make a company more attractive.