Imagine dog sledding in Canada for the very first time. You're holding onto the back of your sled for dear life as you whip around steep curves at lightning speed. Up ahead of you is a sharp turn and you notice that your sled is teetering on the edge of the mountain. You are riding the thin line between falling off the mountain and creating momentum behind your dogs. This was my wife and my experience when we went to Canmore, Canada a few years ago. We had a dog sledding adventure—a first for both of us. (I highly recommend the experience.)
Dog sledding in Canada taught us so many things about leadership, teamwork, and strengths. On our trip, we met a young man named Jereme, who I call “the dog whisperer” because of his expert knowledge of his dogs and how to communicate with them. He was our guide and he took the time to teach my wife and I all about his team.
During our dog sledding adventure with Jereme, I couldn't help but think about the four domains of leadership, each containing a sampling of the thirty four talent themes as outlined in Gallup's Strengths Based Leadership book.
Lead Dogs – Executing - Work Harder
“Follow me, Brent.” He said commandingly and Rhonda and I did just that as Jereme led us to meet the first two dogs on the team.
“These are my lead dogs,” he explained to us, “Lead dogs are not necessarily the smartest, and they're not necessarily the fastest, but they're the best listeners, and they follow commands well.”
Jereme emphasized that it was important to know your lead dogs names so you could communicate with them frequently. After all, they are the leaders of their team. The other dogs respect them and follow them because of their leadership strength.
Lead dogs in dog sledding are not so different from what Gallup calls executing leaders. These domain of strengths are all about production and working harder.
A leader with Arranger – Achiever may work tirelessly to create the perfect configuration of systems.
Point Dogs – Strategic - Think Smarter
Jereme pointed to the next two dogs directly behind the lead dogs. “These are the point dogs. They have vision and help navigate the direction of the team towards the destination.” These dogs apply just enough pressure to steer the lead dogs.
Point dogs, like those of us in positions of strategic leadership, are the thinkers, the heady intellectuals who tend to strategize and point us towards the future. They help the team to think smarter.
Leaders with Context – Strategic talents are exceptional at reviewing the past and finding the best route to grow their organization.
Swing Dogs – Influencing - Motivate Faster
“It's very interesting,” Jereme said about the next two dogs. “You take an old dog and a young dog, pair them together, and you have swing dogs.” The older dogs have been around the mountains for many years, trekked endless trails, and accrued their share of bumps and bruises along the way. Of course, they have lost a bit of their zest, their energy, their pep.
But then you pair this older dog with a younger dog who has loads of enthusiasm, energy, and ability but lacks experience and wisdom and they influence and bring out the best in each other so that the team accomplishes its goal. This pair of dogs helps the team handle change and sharp turns.
The swing dogs fall into the influencing domain. These are the leaders who use their strengths to influence, sell and motivate others faster.
An influencing leader may shine with Communication – WOO drawing in new clients with likeable entertaining stories.
Wheel Dogs – Relationship - Care Better
“These are the strongest dogs and biggest hearted dogs,” Jereme pointed, “and they're called wheel dogs.” The wheels dogs just want to please the driver. Easily the strongest dogs on the team, they love to pull, they love to work, and they love to do their job usually with very little recognition.
The wheel dogs have relationship strengths. They are the people adept at social - emotional intelligence, relating with others, and showing empathy and love. They help teams care better.
Leaders are like stars. The have unique edgy points that make them standout differently than anyone else. Teams need to be well rounded. Incorporating all types of talent and strengths for greater effectiveness.
Dominant relationship oriented leaders with Relator – Developer will build long term loyalty and mentorship.
Would you and your organization like to better understand your strengths based leadership styles?
Bring GALLUP Certified Strengths Coach and Convene Resource Specialist, Brent O’Bannon to your Forum Day or organization. Learn more at http://brentobannon.com/strengthsfinder-keynote-and-workshops/