Pack Leadership: Love ‘Em and Let ‘Em Go

Posted on October 18, 2009

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Sooner or later, it’s going to happen. You’re going to be laid off, or transferred, or promoted. The team that you worked so hard to develop will have to do without you. There are two things you have to do to prepare for that day.

First, train a replacement. You probably do this already. You can’t be there every minute of every day, so you have an alternate or proxy or assistant manager. That’s good. Perfect leadership is invisible, and if you think you’re irreplaceable then you’ve got too much ego to be an effective leader.

Second, maintain some distance. Hopefully you love your team. Hopefully your strong feelings for them make you want to get out of bed and come to work every day. Still, you have to maintain some distance. Lay-offs will come, or someone will screw up enough to need firing, or you’ll have to move on yourself. Good leadership is objective and fair, and that takes some distance.

What does that have to do with dogs? Well, dogs die, though you just can’t keep your distance from them. Jimmy Stewart once read a poem about his beloved dog Beau on The Tonight Show (warning: If you listen to the poem all the way through, you will cry, so it might be NSFW depending on your environment). What you don’t get in the clip I linked to, is the conversation between retired Brigadier General (USAF) Jimmy Stewart and host Johnny Carson afterward. Mr. Carson asked why they had to leave us so soon. Mr. Stewart said, because if they lived any longer, it would just kill us when they died.

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Oh, Gryffin. I still miss you, buddy. You were a pain in the ass, but we loved you, and I wish I’d known as much about dogs then as I do now. I wish I’d realized how sick you were sooner. Kai still looks at every yellow lab and golden retriever like they might be you, coming home to him.

That’s just all I can say this week.

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