Recently we have a puppy. A long-cherished wish has been fulfilled. After much deliberation, we made the decision, and she has now been with us for almost 8 weeks. The puppy holds up a beautiful mirror to me every day because I am directly confronted with my own behavior. In order to provide my puppy with a safe foundation so that she can grow up to be a happy dog, I give a lot of love, attention, rest, positive rewards, and show consistent behavior. In this way, we build a bond for life with each other.

Now you may think, what has this got to do with leadership?

Well, the puppy needs a leader, because dogs are pack animals. A pack animal operates in a group of animals to form a whole. There is a hierarchy within a pack. Every member knows his place and role within this ranking. And every pack has a leader. And that in turn almost seems like working in an organization or a team. And certainly in situations where a new leader starts.

What if a new leader starts?

I often see the parallel with the pack in dogs when a new manager starts. Naturally, this entails new dynamics. The nice thing about my job is that I see all kinds of different ways in which new leaders deal with owning their rank within their new “pack”. I will give a few examples and you may recognize them.

Owning your rank

  • The leader who works very hard to show as quickly as possible that he/she knows how to add value by interfering with everything and taking over all kinds of activities.
  • The leader who will ask a lot of substantive questions, and who does not (yet) provide answers himself, and who wants to collect as much substantive information as possible before decisions can be made.
  • The leader who takes the time to first observe and listen to what is really going on and how the wheels spin.
  • A leader who expresses over and over again the fact that he/she has just started and does not know it all when asked for a decision or an opinion.
  • A leader who, based on his / her own vision, extensively puts it all into writing, e.g. a new structure and functions should be created without any consultation with those involved or considering which problem is now being solved.
  • Or, a leader who shows all the behaviors described above.

All from a positive intention, but often it has all kinds of possible effects on the team, albeit unintentionally and unconsciously, that can actually get in the way of acquiring your rank. Think of a sense of loss of autonomy, mistrust, slowing down, confusion, lack of appreciation, and demotivation.

Coming back to my daily mirror, my dear puppy, I am more and more aware that it is important for every (new) leader to be aware of the context and the fact that ranking is everywhere and always. Therefore, give a lot of love, attention, and rest, reward positive behavior, and show consistent behavior yourself. Above all, start from what is already there and build on that together.