Dog Days of Leadership


Dog Days of Summer

The dog days of summer are typically the hottest, most humid, most uncomfortable days of the season.

Usually, the dog days occur in August.  Dog days also refers to a time period that is stagnant due to the heat, and very little progress is made on any projects around the home.

As you think about the dog days, consider it in relation to your role as a leader.

Leadership Dog Days

Do you ever experience the dog days of leadership?

Are there days or even weeks when you just don’t feel like you’re making a difference?  Are your followers stuck in a mid-year slump?  Is your team failing to make progress toward goals?

A leader cannot provide motivation for each individual member of a team.  However, the leader can create an environment in which team members can use their self-motivation to work toward team goals.  The U.S. Army Handbook shares this definition of motivation and the leader’s role:

A person’s motivation is a combination of desire and energy directed at achieving a goal. It is the cause of action.

Influencing someone’s motivation means getting them to want to do what you know must be done.

On his website, Don Clark provides a narrative of the Army’s views on motivation.  If you and your team are stuck in the dog days of leadership, consider my summary thoughts on his key points, then go to his website for more.

Allow the needs of your team to coincide with the needs of your organization.

The root of motivation is satisfying a need.  Get to know the needs of your people and make sure they are aligned with the needs of your company.  Dog days can be conquered by making progress toward shared goals.

Reward good behavior.

Rewards that are timely, sincere, and personal oftentimes reinforce appropriate actions.  Be sure to also reward strong effort to keep it moving continually toward expectations.

Set the example.

Model the type of attitude, commitment, and performance you want to see.  Nothing sends a stronger message that the behavior your team observes in you.  If your team is stuck in the dog days, ask yourself  this: Are they modeling what they see in you?

Develop morale and esprit de corps.

Be aware of your impact on the mental, emotional, and spiritual state of team members.  Team spirit is what people identify with; do people want to be part of your team, or do they shy away from it?

Allow your team to be part of the planning and problem solving process.

Involving your team in creative discussions around common goals can pull them out of that dog day funk.  Draw out the energy and harness it for a real purpose.

Look out for your team.

Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge includes encouraging the heart as a vital part of leadership.  Demonstrate that you care about your team members; listen to them, be compassionate, hold them accountable.  Set meaningful and reasonable goals and coach them towards their very best.

Address behaviors of individuals that negatively impact the team.  Reminding your team how much you care about their success – as individuals and as a team – can help them move forward.

Take a good look at yourself and your team.  Are you or they stuck in the dog days?  As their leader, how can you help them make progress?


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Eleanor Biddulph
Eleanor Biddulph
 is the EVP of Client Services at Progressive Medical, Inc.
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4 responses to “Dog Days of Leadership

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Dog Days of Leadership « Linked 2 Leadership --·

  2. I think that the whole world seems to be having Dog Days. With new “ideas” such as “Job Enhancement” (what used to be called “job enrichment, without the increase in salary or training or support, just more work and accountability for the same pay), we are seeing real issues of morale and stress.

    When people are viewing government jobs as the best that there are for benefits and salaries (and yes, retirement income and pensions) and when companies are sitting on historically huge amounts of cash rather than hiring people, things are really bad.

    And, when more people are QUITTING their jobs instead of being laid off (in this awful jobs economy – Bureau of Labor Statististics) and on and on, there seems to be a real gap in leadership. Are there exceptions? Most Certainly.

    But are these real Dog Days? Absolutely. I hope that all this ends when September begins…

    What might help are real and sincere efforts on the part of all managers to involve and engage their people to improve the workplace systems and processes and to make people feel a part of something.

    When this recession ends, the stats say that 50% or more of a company’s current employees are ready to leave for other work in other places. THOSE will be the company’s real Dog Days; that is going to be really wild to watch from the sidelines. As Mr. T used to say in the old A-Team, “I pity the fool (customer).”



  3. Scott – thank you for the comment! I agree; employee retention will be a challenge as the economy begins to turn around. And, employee engagement will be one of the keys to retention. Leaders need to be aware of the “Dogs Days” and shake themselves, and their employees, out of them quickly!


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