Is there a T-Rex in your future?

Toby Harper

Growing up, I didn’t have a dog.  When we moved to Savannah 16 years ago with kids in tow, we got a dog.  Your children provide great cover for the inner boy still inside you.

We went to the local Humane Society, and said if they came across a dog that was good with children and good with other dogs, please let us know.

Two weeks later, Toby came home with us.

She was gentle and kind. Not a harsh bark for anyone. For 13 years, she enriched our lives.

And as with most dogs, Toby was aware of her surroundings; she might cry if you left the house and was thrilled when you returned. Although she might make sounds and move her legs and paws while sleeping, I think I’m on solid ground when I say I doubt she ever dreamt of dinosaurs.

Obviously, I can’t be certain.  We never did discuss the matter with her.  But I think it’s reasonable to assume of all the things she might have dreamt of in her unique dog way, T-Rex and others probably weren’t part of the show.  It would make sense, though, that she didn’t, as she never was around dinosaurs, never studied them in school, and family vacations didn’t involve them all that much.  So, I think it’s safe to say they didn’t exist for her.

Because they existed before she existed, they never existed.

For 13 years, she was the best friend we could have had.  And of course, the same is true of your dog, cat, or other animal companion. In their very special way, they find the way to enrich our lives.

Toby was sweet, gentle, and kind.  Not a harsh bark for anyone.  And as with most dogs, she was aware of her surroundings.  She might cry if you left the house, and she was thrilled when you returned. 

And although she might make sounds and move her legs and paws while sleeping/dreaming, I think I’m on solid ground when I say I doubt she ever dreamt of dinosaurs.

Obviously, I can’t be certain.  We never did discuss the matter with her.  But I think it’s reasonable to assume of all the things she might have dreamt of in her unique dog way, T-Rex and others probably weren’t part of the show.  It would make sense, though, that she didn’t, as she never was around dinosaurs, never studied them in school, and family vacations didn’t involve them all that much.  So, I think it’s safe to say they didn’t exist for her.

Because they existed before she existed, they never existed.

But You’re Not a Dog.

But you.  Now that’s a different story.

You know that dinosaurs existed (230 to 65 million ago), even though you weren’t here at the time. 

Even though they existed before you existed, you still know they existed.

The same is true for you as a leader: Important things happened before you arrived on the scene.

One of the dangers of leadership development books and training is that the focus tends to be almost exclusively on the leader, and specifically on leadership traits, skills, behaviors, etc.  The implied message is that with the right traits, skills, behaviors, etc. you too can be a great leader.  So if you aren’t successful, it’s obviously your fault, and equally clear it’s because you don’t possess the requisite traits, skills, behaviors, etc.

But wait one second.  In contrast to your animal companion, you can dream of T-Rex.  You know there were others and other things that came before you.  You know they had impact, and that they affect the team / organization / initiative you’re leading or are about to lead.

Be Aware, and Be Mindful of the Past.

So, when you’re about to lead a new team, become head of a company or organization, are promoted to a new leadership role, or launch a new change initiative, ask yourself the following:

  • Who and what came before me?
  • Who has the respect of those I now lead?
  • Who yields influence that can help or affect me?
  • Who is happy to see me here and why?
  • Who is not happy to see me here and why?
  • How much change can I realistically bring this month/quarter/year?
  • Who can I trust to let me know if I risk being taken out by forces I’m not aware of or can’t see (à la the apocalyptic meteor)?

So go ahead and celebrate your inner T-Rex; it’s okay to dream and lead big. 
Just make sure you don’t sleepwalk into your next leadership assignment.

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