I’ve been living with cats for most of my adult life and let me tell you, they are the consummate leaders of the house and sometimes of my life. The first year that Jonny, my current 14-year-old cat, lived with me I hardly knew he existed. He hid from me, played hard-to-get, and really, quite frankly, I thought that he hated me. At one point I actually said to my sister, “OK I’ll keep him, give him free room and board, but we’ll never bond.” Well, was I wrong. Fourteen years later he not only holds my heart in his tiny paws, but he has gone on to show me some interesting leadership skills that can be brought to bear on the public relations industry.
Be creative. I always thought that the manufacturers of cat toys arguably were not cat owners. Why else would they develop some of the least exciting and sometime the largest play things ever? Just leave it to a cat to find creativity in a small piece of rolled up silver foil, ribbon or a fallen paperclip. Great leaders find creativity in areas that the rest of us mortals may never explore as they go off to turn a problem over in their mind to come up with a creative solution.
Be observant. Honestly, it fascinates me to see Jonny staring off into space caught up in what, trying to determine the scope of the universe, the distance between Earth and Mars, the square root of 16? Great leaders know how to observe others, to listen to other points of view, and to thereby help to advert conflict, solve marketing problems or to just bring new perspective into an old marketing plan.
Be engaging. Whereas dogs have an in-your-face style of engagement, cats are far more subtle. They will quietly appear whenever you least expect them, bringing warmth and comfort. A good leader does likewise, often in the form of a fresh approach, problem-solving guidance or just a warm word of encouragement, “Good job.”
Be an explorer. Open a door, put down an empty carton, take out a shopping bag, and low and behold, faster than a speeding bullet your cat will be inside exploring the new space, and if you encourage him by putting in your fingers or a small toy, well, you’ve got the beginning of a brand new game. Well, a great leader does the same. S/he opens new ways of thinking about old problems, brings new challenges into your thought process and helps you to expand your own creative process.
Don’t be judgmental. A cat doesn’t judge you by your appearance, in fact, if you never put on makeup or shave that beard, your cat won’t care. A good leader doesn’t judge someone for trying out new ideas or new strategies, doesn’t put someone down for not knowing the next step and never judges a book by its cover, so to speak. Hiring someone who doesn’t seem to fit your traditional mold can often lead to new out-of-the-box thinking from someone who approaches their tasks with a fresh mind and a new perspective.