BEING THE LEAD DOG

In the Arctic areas, dog sleds have been traditionally in use for transportation, hauling supplies in areas inaccessible by other methods and in the explorations of the Arctics. Sled dog teams delivered mail to rural communities in Alaska and northern Canada and even today are being used by some rural communities, especially in areas of Alaska and Canada and throughout Greenland. They are also used for recreational purposes and racing events, such as the Iditarod Trail and the Yukon Quest.

The most critical part of the team, lead dogs set the pace and keep the other dogs on the trail. They are the dogs that respond to the musher’s commands of “gee” (right turn) and “haw” (left turn). Lead dogs must be alert and intelligent so they can find and follow the trail when it is covered over with snow. They do so through smell, sensing where other teams have passed, and feel, by feeling with their feet the packed trail beneath the loose snow covering. They also keep the other dogs in the team moving by pulling the gangline taut. Some dogs make better leaders in certain weather conditions but not others.

Being a leader rests not just on the ability to lead, but also on how well you can lead, especially in times of crises. Leader is one who leads by example and has the boldness to tell others, follow me. A leader by profession is different and distinct from one who is by instinct and by nature. The former does it for a season, for a time period, at certain places, because he/she has been given or placed in a position and for a compensation. The latter is a leader, wherever, whenever, always, irrespective of whether they are given or placed in a position and granted a wage or reward. Such a person will not abandon ship nor throw in the towel, but will rather forfeit their own benefits and prioritize the interest of the whole team. These are gems, stars that shine clear and bright, rare indeed is their kind!

Leaders, who lead just because they are one, don’t look for position nor vie for it, but do what they have to do just because of who they are. They lead on and by the authority of their nature or character, rather than by the power and authority of a position, or by rules and regulations or even a following. They are far removed from petty power struggles and fighting for their rights as they are secure in who they basically are and what they are destined to do. Such leadership, though normally intrinsic and inborn, can of course be learnt and acquired, if the basic principle involved here is understood. In such a kind of leading and mentoring, being (character, nature) supersedes demanding, talking, instructing, commanding or even doing. Here the power of leadership exists in the person and in who they are rather than what they do, by virtue of an endless life than of action. This is the secret behind the seeming reason for their security in the face of adversity or opposition or even rejection.

A leader of influence needs to understand the power of non-verbal impartation over verbal communication. A simple short movie done some years ago for a competition portrayed the progress of a yawn around a group of people. One person yawning set a series of yawns that traveled quite a distance around the area. Such is the power of example and existence! Impartation is a powerful aspect of leadership that is often neglected in favor of verbal use or abuse. If you want people to follow you even when you suggest the most outrageous risks and undertakings, learn to concentrate on growing and improving who you are, rather than what you do. Do not use camouflage or subterfuge to mask your inadequacies, but learn to be transparent and forthcoming. I often listen to Indra Nooyi, not because of her position, but more because I can see that what she says is who she is. She is not mouthing fancy words or clichés because she has to, but because she has practiced what she is articulating.


A leader cannot lead his/her people beyond who he/she is or what he can do and how far he has grown.  That’s why for your leadership to be sustainable or sustained, put efforts into improving who you are through some study or training and being mentored. Actually, a leader who is not being led cannot lead others, for he is not accountable, learning or improving. A true leader will seek counsel and advice to grow, consistently expand his/her horizons, continuously develop lateral skills and constantly supplement his/her own capabilities. Such person will always be a student so as to function effectively as teacher and leader. Life with or under such a person will be a roller-coaster of adventure as they are never static and set in their ways, but dynamic and ever self-actualizing in every instance.

I love that the Bible talks about Jesus, the greatest leader who led by example, as someone who ‘began to do and teach’. Any follower of this greatest teacher and rabbi of all times who led by example and see the impact as well as reach that He has had for and on generations, will not hesitate to emulate it.

Everything you say or do as a leader will be colored and coded by who you are. The context of your words will be the content of your life and the consequence of your being, rather than the cosmetic or costume of your appearance. Even though these latter do play a part in presentation, the completeness of your self will unconsciously compliment and complement as well as complete the core of your communication and determine as well as decide the success of it. If your being doesn’t back up your doing or your saying, people will accept you or your commands because they have to and not because they want to! By virtue of their position under you, they will honor you, but once out from under it, will despise or demean you. Such leadership doesn’t last or impact with dignity, but will have to be maintained through deceit, coercion and compulsion rather thriving on willing eager submission. Leadership then becomes a burden and a duty rather than an endless delight and a compelling mission.

Be a leader before demanding or commanding as a leader!

* Photo by James Padolsey on Unsplash and Photo by Jehyun Sung on Unsplash

*Information on dogsleds from https://iditarodoutsider.wordpress.com/tag/sled-dog-positions/ and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sled_dog

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