Missed opportunities for leadership

Grace is shying away from the Pause Table, something she is normally confident in doing, but it was a new environment that intimidated her. I’m asking her to stay and her focus is on someone else as she leaves the area. Great photo taken by Jo-Ann Gerde.

In my last post,I talked about situations where we might step in too aggressively and lead through some event or task when it would have been better to follow. Some people are just natural leaders and they are comfortable taking control of any situation – especially when there is a void and no one else is doing so. Sometimes, like with Grace, the motivation is rooted in insecurity. But even for those confident individuals, it’s good to remember that there are times when it’s beneficial to sit back and let the other person provide the needed leadership.

After a comment made by faithful reader Didi, I got to thinking about the opposite circumstances–those times when we step back from a leadership situation even though we should speak up or take action.

Yesterday afternoon when Grace and I went on our typical walk, she did exactly that. We walk on a road that runs parallel to a small river. There was a mom and two kids fishing and as we approached, Grace got increasingly anxious. The closer we got to them, her body lowered to the ground as if to become invisible, her tail tucked tight under her belly, and she started to pull hard on her leash to get far, far away from the situation. The kids weren’t even paying one single bit of attention to her. If she had been able to get past her fear and approach them confidently, I’m certain they would have welcomed her with a kind voice and pat on her head. A pro-active rather than reactive approach would have had a much less stressful outcome for her! Instead, I picked her up and got her out of the area, calmly but quickly. She continued to look over her shoulder, making sure they weren’t coming after her, body down and scared.

When I think of my own past experiences, I can (unfortunately) think of many times when I let others intimidate me. And the ironic part is that the intimidation was generated by my own perspective, not by anything the other person was doing. It might be an opinion was voiced that is contrary to my own, and for some reason, I felt insecure in speaking up with a different view. Or there are other times when I “go with the flow” of a particular situation, rather than determining a path of action and taking control to effect a particular outcome. It’s easier to sit back, but it’s not always rewarding. Nor does it help the quality of the outcome, especially when you offer expertise or experience that can help the situation.

Typically, each of us defaults to one side or the other. Leading too much or leading too little. Like most things in life, balance is best. The challenge is finding that balance.

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6 comments

  1. didiwright says:

    We’ve already determined that Grace and George are very similar in so many ways, so it won’t come as a surprise to you that we, too, have been in situations like the one you describe, where we had to pick George up and remove him from a scene that made him uncomfortable. We wondered then, and I’m wondering now, after reading your post, if we that was the right thing to do? Maybe we should have found a way to help him confront and deal with the situation?
    Personally, I am predisposed to being easily intimidated when I take up a new activity, in a field that I don’t have complete knowledge of. Then I tend to notice how far ahead others are and exagerate the gap that I’ve got to fill to get to the same level. Or I have fears that my lack of experience might show. Or both. It was like that when I took up martial arts at the age of 13, and when I first became a teacher in 1998. As time went by and I gained in confidence and proficiency, I became less and less intimidated…Ironically, I probably ended up (at least in my sports career) being quite intimidating myself, although it was never intentional.
    ‘Balance’ is key to everything, in my opinion….

    P.S. Thanks for mentioning my name x

    • Hi Didi. Grace’s agility trainer, Rachel, and I talked about this once — whether it’s better to remove a fearful dog from a situation or help them face it. It was her opinion that it’s best to remove the dog, helping them feel secure that you will be there to be the leader. Makes sense to me. I think the idea is that as the confidence grows, the fear lessens. That’s certainly true with people, isn’t it? I, too, can lose sight of the big picture when I see others who are so far advanced in a skill than I am. Hard to have that patience to know it will come eventually. Thanks for your thoughts on this!

  2. I can relate to Graces inclinations. Sometimes I would rather leave a scene of a fiasco where high pitched voices and unsupervised running are concerned. But it will be a triumphant day as she gains more confidence and begins to view the world in a more positive light. Its a funny irony: Some people see a dog and roll there eyes while saying, “not another dog…” Grace rolls her eyes while saying, “not another human” heheheh even when said humans are minding there own business.

    hmmm, on second thought Grace may be too much like me. 🙂

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