Leadership Lessons from a Golden Retriever

I’ve decided one of my spiritual mentors is my Golden Retriever.

Toby’s always been an awesome dog:  fun and gentle, sweet, only chews on the stuff we give him to chew, sleeps until we get up, poops out in the wilderness area behind our house and retrieves anything.  OK, so he’s not perfect–he’s been known to retrieve and chew on rocks, routinely deposit fur tumbleweeds that drift across my floor, and occasionally clears the room when there’s…umm….digestive rumblings.  But I guess I hadn’t realized how powerfully God could speak through his simple life until just a few days ago.

While walking at dusk on a brisk (for California) winter night, I allowed him to be off-leash.  It was so fun to watch a nine year old gray-faced dog bounce from one bush to the next, eagerly sniffing around like a little puppy.  Running out ahead of me, he appeared totally oblivious to anything else, until I whispered his name in the stillness.  Immediately, his head popped up and he came running, falling in line with my steps as he glanced up every few seconds awaiting my next command.  With the word “go”, he would once again take off to curiously investigate whatever new smell caught his attention, reveling in his freedom within the safety and security of my presence.  Often, even when I was silent, he would glance back to reconnect and stop and wait if he sensed too much distance between us.

As I considered my own choices in Jesus’ invitation to follow Him moment by moment, I couldn’t help but be touched and challenged by this beautiful display of attentiveness and submission as a natural reflection of our relationship.  I also got a glimpse into God’s “father-heart” as I found great delight in watching Toby play and discover, and felt an even deeper joy in his eagerness to take his cues from me, choose my will above his own, and obey…all motivated by love and trust rather than the “duty” of a leash.

As a follower of Jesus, are you reveling in your glorious freedom as a child of God, yet intent to listen and eagerly respond in love, preferring His will above your own?

And as a leader, is your sensitivity to the Spirit and desire for God’s lead so evident that your followers can’t help but catch what surrendered obedience looks like in your habits, decisions, priorities and principles?

As I met individually with the staff of a church our Slingshot team is serving, I heard a strong theme emerge in describing their senior pastor.  Numerous times staff members mentioned that, while they knew their pastor wasn’t perfect and everyone didn’t always agree on the details of the execution of his vision, they were completely committed to following their pastor’s lead.  Not because he was powerfully charismatic or an exceptionally brilliant strategist, but because they had watched him for years on his knees seeking God’s plan, waiting on God’s timing, and obeying God’s priorities and ways as they moved forward.  They confidently and enthusiastically chose to follow their leader because they were secure in knowing he would consistently follow the Master Leader.

Practice walking with your Master.  The closer you follow, the better you will lead.

 Sherri Alden | Slingshot Associate   

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