LEAD-a word that can be a noun or a verb. As a verb lead means to go with one by holding them by the hand, a halter, or a rope while moving forward. As a noun it is the initiative of an action as an example for others to follow.
Our first Leader Dog for the Blind, Ashley, has about two more weeks of training with her forever blind person and she will be off to do what God created her to be and do. I have been amazed and humbled by this process and brought to tears, both of joy and frustration, as I have watched Ashley and now our current Leader Dog in training, Lilly, grow, mature, develop, and take on this amazing role. What amazes me is what is required and what disqualifies a dog for service.
One story is of a dog who got her third ear infection the day before she was to go home with her forever blind person and she was disqualified (career changed) from service. These dogs are x-rayed and if their hips are bad, they are career changed. If they are afraid of anything, they are career changed. Another dog was doing well in training but could not get over his fear of the floor cleaner at the grocery store. He was career changed. Ashley’s brother, Duke, was career changed because he became hesitant. Ashley could still be career changed, but it is exciting to know she is this close.
The positive stories of these Leader Dogs are many. One woman shared how everyone that knew her noticed how much her freedom increased. People said she looked like she was “flying.” Others report an increase in confidence and a feeling of increased safety. These Leader Dogs have to ignore balls bouncing, fresh popcorn on the floor, people petting them, and the multitude of noises that could frighten them. They have to know when to cross the street and when to willfully disobey knowing that danger is near if they obey. They must know when to avoid a low lying branch or a tripping hazard across their path. All of these things are expected from a 12-16 month old puppy.
There are many things we can learn from these Leader Dogs. The same things that cause a Leader Dog to be career changed can also cause us to be “career changed” from being quality leaders. Fear, hesitation, distraction, lack of focus, inability to know when to “obey” and when to take a stand for a better alternative are all things that cause a Leader Dog to be career changed will also make a poor and ineffective leader.
As my daughters have grown up, I have prayed often various Scriptures for their future husbands. A new one I have added recently is I Peter 3:7 “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” I have this verse written at the top of a page in my prayer journal and beneath it I have several qualities of a good leader that I pray will be in my future sons-in-law:
*inspires others to follow
*brings out the best in a person
*recognizes individual’s potential skill and helps them to use these skills
*builds others up
*inspires and motivates people to want to do their best
*an example of honesty and integrity
*LEADER is not a title
*innate ability to inspire and motivate others to accomplish and achieve more than they thought possible
*protect and provide for needs
Additional qualities seen in Jesus as a leader:
*basic motivation was love
*used His power to serve
*served others before Himself
We all are leaders. No matter our station in life, we are leaders whether we realize it or not. No matter the path of our lives, someone is following us either positively or negatively. If we do not take this role seriously and desire to inspire and motivate others to accomplish all they can be and seek to serve others from the love God has given to us, where will the next generation be? A gifted leader does not push someone into achieving something rather he inspires them to accomplish something greater than themselves. This gifted leader comes along side and works with an individual inspiring them along the way. This leader asks nothing of anyone that he/she is not willing to do himself/herself.
If Ashley can lead a blind person, then what are we afraid of? If a dog who was not made in the image of God can lead a person to safety, can you not inspire others to excel to greater heights? Don’t be hesitant, fearful, or distracted rather inspire the best from people and see that skill or quality in someone take root and cause them to “fly.”