Racing to be the lead dog doesn’t always make you a winner

Despite being five years old than Mya, Grace was determined to be the fastest!

Grace loves the woods. On many Sunday mornings we go for a walk with a small group of people in search of mushrooms.She’s always in motion out there and I absolutely love to watch her graceful moves as she navigates around, over, and through a variety of natural obstacles in her way. On rare occasions another dog joins us, but usually she’s the only four-legged mushroomer (not that she’s really helping that effort!).

Grace was at ease leaping over tree limbs but it certainly slowed down Mya.

This past weekend, a 2-year-old rottweiler mix, Mya, came along with her mom, Pat. After the usual sniffing introductions, Grace and Mya became fast friends (pun intended). Once we got on the trail, we let them off-leash and they immediately took off racing. They were evenly matched in speed, and I think Grace was stunned to find another dog could keep up with her. It didn’t take her long to realize that this youngster was going to give her a run for her money. Within minutes, Grace was artfully leaping over limbs and making short, unexpected turns in the path. She had immediately found ways to derail Mya’s speed, yet allow their play to continue—as long as Grace was in the lead!

Even when Mya took a breather in the fresh water puddle, Grace circled nearby so she’d be ready for action at the right time.

This mischievous (and pretty darn shrewd if I say so myself) action amused me but sometimes in human interaction it’s not that adorable. There are times when it’s appropriate to allow the other person to shine. I think that’s especially true for an inexperienced individual, one that is in the process of learning a new skill, for example. Of course, balancing that line is important, because we learn and grow by being stretched. We all know that competition can bring out our best performance.

When working with others, how do you know when you should be the lead dog or when you should follow?

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6 comments

  1. didiwright says:

    First of all…Grace is seven??? I thought she was much younger…Little lady’s looking young and fit!
    George is like Grace. he loves a good game of chase, as long as he’s running ahead and can outrun the others. But I agree, things are not as pretty with humans. I’m about to watch ‘The Apprentice’, and that’s a perfect example of a bunch of people who all want to be the lead dog, no matter what. When you watch it on TV, it’s pretty funny. I would find it very annoying in real life. I like to think that I know when it’s my turn to shine and when it’s time to back off. It’s a very useful skill in a work environment (and not only).

    • It’s hard for me to think of Grace being 7 years old, too! I’ve had her since she was about 8 months old and she doesn’t look a day older to me. When I was walking Grace last night, I was thinking about your comment and somehow it made me think about times when we let others take the lead when we should. Sort of the opposite of my original post but also an interesting topic. Thanks, Didi, for your continued offering of your perspective, it always makes me think more about the subject.

      • didiwright says:

        That’s such a nice thing for you to say, and I appreciate it. You know how much I love our discussions and exchange of ideas. I don’t know many people with whom I can have a proper, intelligent ‘chat’ about serious/important topics and things that matter.

        As for letting others take the lead when we should…A lot of people have been fired from ‘The Apprentice’ this year precisely for this reason. Looks like Alan Sugar agrees with you 😉

  2. It is interesting to learn this observation of dog lore. Being more familiar with cats than dogs, I don’t think I would have even noticed the deeper meaning at play here.

    Your first answer to Didi in a way also answers the comment I wished to make in that, I find it naturaly easy to encourage others to shine. And Ill take the lead when a leader is lacking. My problem lies in the fact that I don’t have a competitive bone in my body. The urge to compete is just missing from my psych. SO although I shine as a leader in a clearly defined position… Ill fade if there is someone who is grasping and greedy for power. My prefered place in the pack is directly behind the pack leader. 🙂

    • Well, I think that if someone is already leading and doing a good job, then you’re doing the best thing for all involved, which is to follow along. There can’t be a leader without any followers. Everyone’s role is critical. Followers can be as important, maybe even more important, than the leader. Good to “see” so much of you today. Always a highlight to get your input.

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