Thoughts while out walking…

I walk my dog on a 30′ lead.  Thirty feet.  Think about it…that’s ten yards.  Enough for a first down.  Those thirty feet of braided hemp provide a world of freedom compared to the typical walking chain.

Most of the time my dog doesn’t even know she’s on a leash; she merrily trots on her way, zig-zagging along the street, leash slacking behind her.  On a rare occasion I even get ahead of her and have to give a tug of encouragement to pull her along.  Oh, to be sure, she can still plod through the mud.  Yet, despite the vast distance between her romping and my guiding, I still have some control over her and more than once have been able to save her from a passing car or tug her back before she had an unfriendly encounter.

Sometimes the leash is a nuisance to her, and sometimes it’s even a hassle for me, but it pretty much works out well for both of us.

My style of supervision is a lot like walking my dog on a 30′ lead.  I determine which road we’re going to take, but it’s up to another to determine exactly how we get to the end of it.  I’m even often quite surprised by the path we take; somehow it’s hardly ever the straight or routine one.

I let others have quite a bit of freedom to determine the course, but they’re not totally off on their own (although often it may seem like it to them).  I still know that in the end I am ultimately responsible for what happens and need to try and save them from impending pitfalls.

Sometimes they get entangled in the connection, and other times I get hung up in the process myself.  But overall it provides a likable combination of freedom and direction for both of us, and the journey is more productive with the lead than if we were both out on our own.

Lead.  Not leash or chain or short rein of restriction.  The double digits of space make all the difference.

— beth triplett


Written in 1999 

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

I'm the chief connector at leadership dots where I serve as "the string" for individuals and organizations. Like stringing pearls together to make a necklace, "being the string" is an intentional way of thinking and behaving – making linkages between things that otherwise appear random or unconnected – whether that be supervising a staff, completing a dissertation or advancing a project in the workplace. I share daily leadership dots on my blog to provide examples of “the string” in action. I use the string philosophy through coaching, consulting and teaching to help others build capacity in themselves and their organizations. I craft analogies and metaphors that help people comprehend complex topics and understand their role in the system. My favorite work involves helping those new to supervision or newly promoted supervisors build confidence and learn the skills necessary to effectively lead their team.

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