Pack Leadership: Calm, Assertive

Posted on August 31, 2009

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Kai, flat-coat/chow mix, and Rustle, miniature poodle

Kai, flat-coat/chow mix, and Rustle, miniature poodle

I’m a very calm, assertive guy. This past summer, we worked over a weekend. Just before lunch, my boss was in his office. I noticed a commotion, and one of my team members called to me across the room, “He just fell down.” Afterward, my boss said he started dialing 911 before he got to the scene because he saw me running, and he’d never seen me move that fast before. He knew it was an emergency if I lost my calm.

I have a confession, though. I struggle with the assertive part. The problem is, people aren’t dogs. People see someone who’s calm  and assume that person is passive. They assume that if the listener remains calm, he doesn’t understand the situation, and that’s wrong.

I can’t tell you the number of dogs I’ve emotionally disarmed by staying calm. When they run up barking and showing their teeth, they expect a reaction. When they don’t get one from me, their instincts tell them that I’m so much tougher than they are that I can stay calm. When I hiss at them and say, “Go home,” they do. My neighbors have no idea why their dogs obey me, and not them. Calm, assertive energy is why.

People are not dogs, obviously, but many of the same techniques apply. When ROTC cadets write me for advice before accepting their commissions, usually because they’ve found some version of my Desert Shield/Storm story on the web I tell them that the way to show their leadership is to be quiet, be still, and listen carefully before issuing any opinion or instruction. If they aren’t sure about their opinion, they should keep quiet. If they aren’t sure about an instruction, they should ask a more experienced person – because people aren’t dogs, and people like it when you respect and value experience.

So from me and Cesar Millan: Stay calm and assertive!

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