Leadership: Watchdog or Licking Puppy

By | November 27, 2019

[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.


  1. https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/democracies-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown/ar-BBXi4Yz?ocid=spartanntp
Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I'm Doug and I provide at least one article every day on some leadership topic. I welcome comments and also guests who would like to write an article. Thanks for reading my blog.

26 thoughts on “Leadership: Watchdog or Licking Puppy

  1. Mikka Solarno

    Gen. Satterfield, I’d not heard this about the US military system of justice. I only wish the civilian system had such a reputation for fairness.

    1. Dale Paul Fox

      So very true, Mikka. I know from personal experience. If you are innocent, you will appreciate the military justice system but, on the other hand, you are guilty, then expect to be punished.

    2. Dead Pool Guy

      I’m happy I found General Satterfield and his leadership making blog. I got the link from a good friend of mine who said I should read a few articles and to see what I thought. I’m hooked. I also read a lot of the comment from various articles here and appreciate the discussions. Thank you!

  2. Douglas R. Satterfield Post author

    Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in the United States. I wish all of you a special day of thanks. Please give yourself time to think about what you are thankful for and also spend time with your family if possible.

    1. Gil Johnson

      Thank you Gen. Satterfield for our best wishes on Thanksgiving Day. I’ll definitely be enjoying my time with my family and friends.

  3. KenFBrown

    Hi all, I liked the quote “Without initiative, leaders are simply workers in leadership positions.” – Bo Bennett, an American entrepreneur and author
    Made a splash with me. Somehow I connected with the comment. Glad I’m a regular reader !! Despite being new, I’ve found the articles by General Satterfield to be very helpful in my life and as an assistant team leader.

    1. JT Patterson

      Glad you found us, Ken. Keep coming back. There is a diversity of people here. I think you will find them very helpful and especially so if you have a question.

  4. Shawn C. Stolarz

    Funny title but serious article that made me THINK. I do believe that is the purpose here of this blog entry. I am a big fan of this blog but also of those who comment. I learn a bunch just reading the comments. They expand upon the article very well and are worth the time it takes to skim through them.

    1. Jonathan B.

      Shawn, I’m a daily reader. Even some of the Guest Articles are okay. Less so than Gen. Satterfield (who can tell a good story).

    2. Willie Shrumburger

      Thinking about leadership AND developing the needed skills is very very hard. I found it tough going but lately, Gen. Satterfield, has added a little something extra. Simple pieces of advice like, ‘don’t lie, cheat, or steal’ is fundamental to not corrupting my own person. Thanks all.

      1. Big Al

        Hi WIllie, Big Al here. Hope you and the family have a great holiday season. I’ll keep coming back here too to learn more, experience a tough, hard-hitting article daily on what it takes to be a successful leader.

  5. Dale Paul Fox

    Another excellent article to go with my morning coffee. I think I might head out to the gun range today to shoot a few paper targets. Oh, I hope I didn’t trigger any college snowflakes with my plans today. Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. Actually I hope I did. ?????

    1. Valkerie

      Hi Dale. Good luck today. I will be leaving tomorrow on a hunt with some friends. Yes, I know it will be Thanksgiving Day in the US, less hunters in the forests so easier to bag some game. I’ll be taking my M1 Carbine (which is illegal in most states including mine). But I don’t give a crap about the anti-Constitution govts anyway.

  6. Ronny Fisher

    Leadership means having a bold vision, the ability to communicate it clearly and forcefully, and the skills to carry it out. That is why we say that leadership is about bringing people together. That is the way to accomplish great things.

    1. Linux Man

      There will also always be those who resist a group/nation doing good. Of course, when I write good, it means ethical. When we drift away from religion, we also can no longer understand what ‘good’ means and it will be used for nefarious reasons (mostly to advance power in someone).

      1. Joe the Aussie

        This is the slippery slope to evil. Just like we see in the US democratic party. The world is looking. Cheers!

      2. Jerome Smith

        Well said. Not just the US but most of the West. We encourage weakness and failed systems because we can say we are compassionate. But it takes more than compassion to exist.

  7. Army Captain

    The answer to the question proposed in the title of your article, Gen. Satterfield, should be “Watchdog.” Licking puppy is for the weak and uneducated.

    1. Tracey Brockman

      US Pres Ronald Reagan said it differently, ‘peace thru strength.’ That is the way of leadership. Weakness does not work.

    2. old warrior

      As an ‘old warrior’ I must say that I wholeheartedly agree with you, Army Captain. I’m glad to see you on this blog by Gen. Satterfield.

      1. Yusaf from Texas

        Hi ‘old warrior’ … so what made you call yourself that? Hope you are a military vet.


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