Lessons for the Leader of the Pack

So you’re the big dog, the CEO. You worked your tail off to get there, so congratulations. Now comes the hard part: staying there.

As leader of the pack, everyone’s looking to you for leadership. While you don’t have control over many of the external factors that impact your business, you have a big influence on the way your organization responds to challenges, opportunities and the road ahead.

So here’s an idea: since you’re the top dog, it’s time to actually lead like a dog.

That’s not as crazy as it sounds. Dogs naturally have many of the attributes that separate leaders from the rest of the pack: loyalty, perseverance, friendship, teamwork, honesty, bravery, ingenuity, playfulness, curiosity and an unflagging desire for more information.

The leadership traits dogs embody – the ones that can help you maintain your leader of the pack position – can be boiled down to four themes: the Fido Factor.

  • Faithful leaders earn the trust of their team and their customers by doing the right things and living up to their word.
  • Inspirational leaders move people to do the meaningful and the extraordinary.
  • Determined leaders combine perseverance with a dose of fearlessness to keep moving toward goals.
  • And observant leaders are committed to taking in as much information as possible in order to make the best decisions.

To make it easy to remember, these dog-inspired traits spell FIDO. If you’re salivating like Pavlov’s dog over the prospect of learning some new leadership tricks, that’s a good sign. Let’s take a deeper dive into each Fido Factor.


Faithful leaders, like dogs, can be depended on and will defend you no matter what. When you are regarded as faithful it means you’ve earned trust. And trust comes from being loyal to your teammates and customers and doing what you say you’re going to do when you say you’ll do it.

It isn’t easy to develop an “I’ve got your tail no matter the circumstances attitude. Words are nice but they aren’t enough. Just like dogs don’t rely much on words, people don’t either. What really matters are actions. Every day demonstrate your commitment to the team as well as to each individual member’s success.

Faithful leaders show their team they care for them by wearing it on their collars. The dirty little secret is that if you want people to believe you care about them, you actually have to care. Just like dogs, you team can sniff out insincerity. Should the big dog show signs of emotions or vulnerability? Woof yes! It makes you more authentic. And authentic leaders are seen as more competent leaders.


Inspirational leaders get others to believe they can do what they thought was impossible. And just like your dog, they lift the team’s spirits with their passion and enthusiasm. Sometimes all you need to do is wag your tail to show your happiness.

Attitude is everything, which is why inspirational leaders approach everything with gusto. Attitude is infectious, both positive and negative. And enthusiasm, like happiness, is contagious, too. It’s also a lot less dangerous than kennel cough, so spread some throughout your office.

Inspirational leaders also set the vision for the organization. The vision doesn’t have to be big, but it does need to be aspirational. It’s a simple statement that speaks to what the organization wants to be in the future. The vision needs to connect with every partner on your team so they believe they’re contributing something meaningful every day they come to work.


Dogs mix perseverance with a fearlessly resolute attitude. Which is notable because leadership requires relentless determination to reach goals. When you combine a sharp focus with a never-give-up mentality and you get a team that can achieve virtually anything.

Acting with urgency is critical to success. That’s because your competition isn’t waiting for you to get your act together. Procrastination is your enemy, so don’t fill your day with low priority tasks.

When you truly own something you need to follow-up and follow-through to be absolutely sure the job gets done. Since many people often contribute to a project, things can get fuzzy. Remember that if you really own the outcome, you are the one ultimately responsible for making sure everyone does his or her part.

Determined leaders prioritize. Put a steak and a tennis ball in front of a dog and it instantly knows what to focus on. Great leaders are doggedly determined to work on what matters most.


Observant leaders know that information is king. That’s why they use all their senses to absorb and assimilate as much input as possible in order to make the best decisions.

Observant leaders sense things others miss. They feel momentum shifts and read body language. They identify patterns because they are willing to look at things from different perspectives. They listen intently and act when something doesn’t smell right.

Great leaders are great askers of questions. They pepper their conversations with “tell me more” and “how did that make you feel” to pull out even more information. Most importantly, they are great listeners. They repeat key phrases in their minds and look for body language to uncover hidden meaning.

In the Iditarod, dogs and their musher travel eleven hundred miles from Anchorage to Nome. It’s an epic test of strength, endurance and leadership. It’s also a vivid example of the old axiom that if you aren’t the lead dog, the view never changes.

Focus on the Fido Factor and odds are your view will continue to get better.