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5 Lessons My Guide Dog Taught Me About Leadership

David Wood came to Guiding Eyes to be matched to his first guide dog. Since their graduation, his partnership with Tessi, a female yellow lab known for a keen desire to work and the pink heart on her nose, has brought not only increased independence, but awareness and understanding.  David shares his thoughts below.


5 Lessons my Guide Dog taught me about Leadership

By David Wood

In the world of leadership, lessons often come from unexpected sources. For me, some of the most profound insights into effective leadership have come from my guide dog. Navigating the world together, my furry companion has imparted invaluable lessons that transcend the boundaries of sight and shed light on leadership principles applicable to any setting.

Trust is Fundamental:

Guide dogs, by nature, operate on a foundation of unwavering trust. As a leader, earning and maintaining the trust of your team is equally crucial. Like my guide dog relies on me for guidance, team members look to their leader for direction and support. Cultivate an environment where trust can flourish by being consistent, transparent, and reliable in your actions. A leader who is trustworthy becomes a guiding force, fostering a sense of security and confidence among the team.

Effective Communication is Key:

Clear communication is the linchpin of any successful partnership, whether with a guide dog or within a team. My guide dog and I communicate through subtle cues and a mutual understanding developed over time. Similarly, leaders must prioritize effective communication to convey expectations, provide feedback, and ensure everyone is on the same page. A leader who can communicate with clarity and empathy builds a cohesive team that functions harmoniously towards shared goals.

Adaptability Leads to Success:

Guide dogs are experts at adapting to their surroundings, a skill that’s equally vital for leaders. In the dynamic landscape of business or any organization, adaptability is a hallmark of effective leadership. Embrace change, encourage flexibility, and demonstrate resilience in the face of challenges. A leader who can adapt, much like a guide dog navigating different environments, can steer their team through uncertainty and towards success.

Empathy Drives Connection:

My guide dog’s ability to sense my emotions creates a strong bond between us. Leaders who cultivate empathy build deeper connections with their team members. Understanding and acknowledging the feelings and perspectives of others fosters a supportive work environment. A leader who leads with empathy not only strengthens team cohesion but also inspires loyalty and dedication.

Collaboration Amplifies Strength:

Guide dogs and their handlers exemplify the power of collaboration. In leadership, recognizing the strengths of individual team members and fostering a collaborative spirit can lead to exceptional outcomes. Encourage open dialogue, value diverse perspectives, and promote a culture where everyone’s contributions are acknowledged. A leader who harnesses the collective strengths of their team propels everyone towards shared success.

David squats down next to yellow Lab guide Tessi and gets a big kissDavid is a 20 year veteran of the United States Army and retired from his position as Executive Director of Continuing Education & Outreach at Stetson University in Florida. He and guide dog Tessi, are graduates of the Guiding Eyes August 2019 class. You can also view the team in action in this graduate highlight video featuring David and Tessi.