Life Lessons from Linus, Lucy & Toby
By Andrea Davis
Class of 2014
Everything I know about leadership I learned from my cats.
It sounds crazy, I know, but it’s true. And acknowledging that simple fact helped me realize something that should have already been obvious: Leadership has nothing to do with big paychecks, fancy offices or lofty titles.
Sure, some leaders also hold positions of authority in business or in the community, but managing people and leading them are not the same thing. At all.
Leaders have vision, along with an innate ability to motivate others to help achieve it. Individual styles vary, but in my experience the most successful leaders are the ones who roll up their sleeves and set an example for others to follow.
My cats don’t have sleeves, of course, but they regularly demonstrate more leadership skills than some of my former bosses. (Just kidding! Mostly.)
OK, so I’ll admit the cats have a fairly modest vision of full tummies and comfortable places to sleep, as opposed to maximizing third-quarter profit, but they definitely influence my behavior to ensure their vision is fulfilled. How?
Communication: Anyone who thinks cats can’t talk has never lived with one. Each of my three has its own voice, and a full vocabulary to go with it. They make their expectations clear to my husband and me, rather than assume we can read their minds. When we do well, we get purrs and head-butts. If we mess up, they let us know. They provide feedback before we ask—and not just when it’s annual review time.
Trust: The humans in our household have our responsibilities, and the cats have theirs. They delegate all the driving, shopping and litter box cleaning to us, while they handle the chipmunk watching and blanket warming. They identified our strengths and put them to use—without second-guessing the route we took to buy litter.
Enthusiasm: If defies the stereotype, but our cats are social creatures. They chirp with excitement when the alarm goes off in the morning and greet us at the door when we get home—in fact, Lucy is often looking out the front window as we pull up. They are genuinely glad to see us, and they’re not afraid to show it. That kind of positive energy can be a real morale booster!
Not everyone would admit to getting life lessons from their cats, let alone share them with such a distinguished audience. But then again, not everyone has such a stellar feline leadership team.