21 Jan THREE THINGS OUR DOG HULA TAUGHT ME ABOUT LEADERSHIP
Our beloved 15-year old dog Hula passed this weekend. Naming this Hawaiian-born puppy came naturally. She not only gave as much love and comfort as she received, but her examples of fidelity, selflessness and enthusiasm inspired everyone and epitomized the leadership traits of “Teamwork, Tone, Tenacity” (T3).
TEAMWORK: One of the greatest attributes of a leader is understanding how to first be a good follower and part of a team. Coming from a litter of eight, Hula knew this from the start. She also demonstrated exceptional team leadership qualities such as:
- LISTENING: She made us feel heard by an intense stare or head twist even though she couldn’t verbally communicate. Her rule of paw was to listen more than she barked. After listening for a long time, Hula’s recommendation to relieve stress was a long walk or a good nap. Both worked wonders.
- LOYALTY: The essence of teamwork is trust … the byproduct of trust of loyalty … with shared loyalty teammates are willing to sacrifice for others to achieve a common goal. Whether rich or poor, healthy or ill, successful or not, the one constant we could count on since 2014 was having Hula exuberantly welcome us home everyday. When it came to the goal of safety: Hula was willing to do whatever it took to guard us from skateboarders, firetrucks or a the brushes in our local drive-through car wash. We always escaped safely thanks to her overwatch. She was at her best in 2015 when I was on the ropes as a Stage IV Bone Marrow Cancer patient going through High Dose Chemo Therapy and a Stem Cell Transplant … it was then Hula instinctively stayed by my side for months
- PREPARATION: The night before any of my Temporary Duty travels I could count on Hula jumping into my suitcase to help tamp down the clothes (although I suspected she was really volunteering to be my travel buddy). The only time her assistance backfired was one rainy night when I’d later discover in Tokyo that I had muddy paw prints on my white uniform shirt!
TONE: Leaders set the mood, the atmosphere of an organization or location. Hula did that in five homes over a decade-and-a-half by ensuring they were always places we could relax, have fun and recharge for future adventures
- POSITIVE ATTITUDE: Her actions ensured we checked our work troubles at the door and started afresh for our time together. Hula’s hugging, jumping and licking were great tools to recalibrate our attitude. I wouldn’t recommend that combo for humans at the workplace; however, the principle of starting each day anew apples.
- FORGIVENESS: Every now and then I would accidentally step on Hula’s paw which caused her to yelp. On rare occasions we scolded her for bad behavior which caused a shameful retreat. Hula took those in stride and never held a grudge. We could always count on her putting it behind and returning to her lovable self.
- ADAPTABILITY: A native Hawaiian, Hula preferred the sun to the snow but never complained about moves to Maryland and Virginia. Rather than whine about what was left behind, she focused on what was new and what lay ahead. This quickly endeared her to new neighbors, groomers and Veterinarians.
TENACITY: Leaders persevere with purpose and achieve results that motivate others. At this, Hula was a role-model.
- TIRELESS THINKING: As a puppy she would repeatedly plot and implement escape options from our plans to keep her in one section of the house. One time she broke free by using her then-five pound body to shoulder a swinging wooden door reinforced by thirty pounds of soda cases. As an adult she perfected a stealthy approach to any open refrigerator that would be the envy of a lioness stalking the savanna.
- RELENTLESS PURSUIT: In Honolulu and Tampa there were plenty of small wildlife options to discover and chase down. Most were faster than Hula. On occasion she would catch or corner one, but never had the disposition to do it any harm after the chase and let them go.
- DISCIPLINE: Whether it was her morning walk or 5:00 PM internal dinner alarm clock, regular patterns were part of Hula’s DNA. Adhering to routines help train her thoughts, actions and character.
According to “The Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan, “Dogs know how comfortable you are with yourself, how happy you are, how fearful you are, what’s missing inside of you.” That must be why Hula loved and taught us so much about affection, fidelity and integrity through her demonstration of “T3.” We mourn Hula today, but realize we’re blessed to have been inspired by her and know her paw prints will eternally be in our hearts.