My beautiful 11 year old black lab, Naya, passed away this Christmas Eve. As I’m mourning her loss I’m also remembering great things about Naya, including three effective leadership lessons she taught me.

1. Look Over the Yard. Every time Naya went into the backyard she first did a perimeter trot to ensure everything was as it should be. She did this every single day. Part of our job as leaders is to have a consistent eye to what is happening in our area. How are people doing in our team? Is there anything new we need to be aware of? Are there any problems that have come up unexpectedly? How is your yard today?

2. Let Them be First. In the beginning I wasn’t really sure Naya was the alpha in my duo of pups, but the trainer said the fact that she let Luka in the door first, let him begin eating first, and let him greet me first was a huge part of her leadership style. The key phrase in all of this was that she “let him” do these things first. They were both trained in what they were supposed to do and Naya let Luka do them first so she could watch his back. Does your team know what they’re supposed to do? Do you let them take the lead on these things or do you try to take charge of their projects? Do you watch their backs and let them grow?

3. Learn in Playing. Naya loved to run around the yard, chase balls, and go for long walks around the nearby elementary school with me (especially when the kids were out!). When my 6 nieces and nephews were smaller, she herded them around like they were sheep – making sure they stayed out of trouble. And she did this while they thought they were leading her! Several months after her brother Luka died I got another puppy because Naya was so sad. Coco (my chocolate lab) gave Naya a sense of fun again, the ability to be a leader and teach the pup how to live in this household. She taught Coco lessons through playing with her. Coco learned the boundaries by Naya playfully nipping at her when she got too close to the fence. She learned how to play fetch by chasing after Naya and bringing me the toy back. When you are training your team, are you doing it with a sense of fun? Do they feel like it’s a chore to learn things or is it exciting and creative? Are you putting some fun in your leadership style?

Naya was a great dog and I will miss her greatly. And she taught not only Coco, but me, these three effective leadership skills – Look Over the Yard, Let Them be First, and Learn in Playing. What leadership qualities has your pet taught you?