Leading with love: You CAN teach an old dog new tricks

Posted by  on 0 Comments

Would you sell your kids or pets because they were challenging?

Didn’t think so. As a mother, your nurturing instincts are powerful and have the capability to transform relationships.

Tough love, coaching and mentoring should be part of everyday work life – just like raising children or pets.

You don’t get rid of your children and hire new ones, you persist, you are patient and you commit to doing everything you can to make it work.

The world is facing a GLC (Global Leadership Crisis) and what we need is more leaders at every level of every kind of organisation: from startups and entrepreneurs to corporates, government, schools, communities, religious entities and not for profits.

With the rapid pace of change, crisis and complexity coming at us from all directions, we need more people willing to stick their neck out and lead others to a better future, and we need more of those leaders to be women.

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about why more women don’t step up into leadership roles. What prevents them from doing so? Often it’s the environment, the structures and the role models set before them.

Many organisations make gender diversity a priority with quotas to reach and seats to fill. They spend time and money trying to build a pipeline of future female leaders and then nothing happens.

The problem with this approach is that many women don’t see themselves as a leader in the first place because they believe they don’t fit the leadership mold.

Becoming a leader involves a lot more than being given a title and acquiring new skills, it requires a fundamental identity and belief system shift.

Organisations tend to undermine their success by creating dissonance between how women are seen and what they culturally associate with leadership in the workplace.

Stereotypes such as a leader needing to be decisive, assertive and independent run in stark contrast to many of the valuable qualities a feminine style of leadership can bring; such as being collaborative, communicative and nurturing.

For those of you who think ‘Leading with Love’ is too soft, woo woo or feminine, take a look at the record of love leading companies like Southwest Airlines or Zappos and you will quickly see that despite being in industries fraught with economic peril, their companies and people have produced unprecedented records of job stability, customer satisfaction and shareholder return.

I recently realised the poignancy of the need to lead with love when I adopted a 12 year old Jack Russell Terrier rescue dog named Viking.

At age 12, Viking’s world had been turned upside down. Found as a stray on the Central Coast of Australia, after 6 weeks receiving care and medical attention including microchipping, de-sexing, tooth extractions and skin treatment at the RSPCA and Hunter Animal Rescue, he still showed signs of previous neglect and abuse.

He didn’t respond to his name and he was aggressive towards the majority of humans that entered his space.

When I took Viking home that sunny weekend he had to familiarise himself with a new yard, bed, playmate, routine and surroundings. I renamed him Banjo so he had to learn a new name, his pack order in his new family as well as different food, smells, feeding routines, sleeping patterns as well as a new ‘master’ in me. These were all major changes he had to cope with, just like a new employee entering the workplace.

I could have come down hard, been the disciplinarian, laying down the rules, policies and procedures to be abided by. However, I decided to take the feminine leadership approach and to serve him with love, support and compassion so he could learn and adapt in a nurturing environment.

What I noticed most over the following 3-4 weeks what how much his behaviour reflected his level of feeling safe, secure and loved. I continued to be loving in my leadership approach, firm but kind, consistent and patient, he went from always being aggressive towards humans and jumping with fright at every strange noise to beginning to trust me as his new leader and relax into his new home.

As he began to feel safe and secure, Banjo reciprocated becoming more affectionate, trusting, relaxed and playful.


Banjo (left) with Mintie (right)

Once he felt safe he became more obedient, loyal and joyful.

He started following instructions, allowing people in his space, and delivering wet, toothless kisses on me as his master. Letting Banjo into my world was like adopting a child into a family or onboarding a new employee into a company and it made me realise just how critical it is to lead with love.

Leading with love doesn’t mean you go soft on your standards, values or practices, those first few weeks are critical to shaping a sense of belonging and helping them assimilate into your culture and team.

The world needs more patient, compassionate, understanding leaders, ones who build their team using trust, cooperation and importantly love. Have you been holding back from stepping into your feminine leadership qualities? It’s time to step up and #startwithU

Heidi Alexandra Pollard

As a workplace futurist and company culture hacker, Heidi Alexandra and her team are the secret super power for Australia’s most innovative cultures and brands. Heidi Alexandra created a simple model, called The UQ Powerhouse, that codifies what makes healthy, happy and productive workplaces for the future. She believes it is possible for businesses to balance people, planet and purpose with profit and that together we can end workplace bullying, depression, anxiety and suffering. Find out more at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *