[November 27, 2019] Leaders fill many roles. We often hear, for example, that an employer gets the employees he deserves. That bit of sage counsel is no small point. It is the duty of leaders to be a watchdog for their organization (or group); for it is those who guard the way they make for the best leaders.
Leaders are responsible for the care of those who work for them and the proper management of the group’s resources. A leader cannot be shy about protecting those men and women who do the hard work. We’ve all had leaders who fail to do the right thing by those who work for them, and it was no picnic. To do this requires initiative, guts, intelligence, and experience. To be a real leader means to avoid being the licking puppy that sucks up to those around him.
“Without initiative, leaders are simply workers in leadership positions.” – Bo Bennett, an American entrepreneur and author
I surprised a few senior officers in the U.S. military when I told them I didn’t want a licking puppy to work for me. Most had not heard the phrase before and questioned me about the meaning. Leaders are human and that means, like anybody else, they will take the easy road if they see no reason not to.
My philosophy of leadership, on the contrary, is that leaders are fierce guardians of the organization, its employees, resources, and of its vision and mission. This philosophy does not mean protecting members who have done wrong or fail to live up to the requirements of the company they work for each day. It means upholding basic decency and ethical standards of behavior.
They say that in the U.S. military system of justice, there is no better place to be if you are innocent of wrongdoing and no worse place to be if you are guilty. This system is evidence that leaders profoundly care for those in their charge. It shows that military leaders are trained to be watchdogs and not licking puppies. It is what makes the U.S. military a respected institution and where good people gravitate.
There are organizations full of licking puppies. When that occurs, the death of the organization is only a matter of time. Current philosophers, for example, are warning us that Western democracies are on “the verge of a nervous breakdown.” 1 When leaders are squabbling among themselves, allow a deepening malaise to infect their nations, and act out in volatile ways, democracy is at risk. Maybe, just maybe, we have too many licking puppy politicians.