When The Crazy Thing is the Right Thing – Leadership Lessons From Adopting A Puppy


When do you intuitively choose to do one thing when your rational brain instructs you to back off?

For example,

You hire someone who is absolutely brilliant but have no place for her/him now in your organization

You see an injustice at work and decide to be a whistle blower even if it costs you your job

You rescue a dog when the timing for an adoption is terrible

Why in such circumstances would you go with your gut rather than follow what seems better sense?

A week before we left Mexico we took our 4-year-old lab for a walk and sighted a bundle of shivering fur in the grass on a vacant field in a trash bag. We peeked into the bag to see two terrified eyes looking back up at us.

It was a 12-week-old abandoned puppy.

Our impulse was to pick it up and take it home but all the time our head told us “You must be crazy! You are in the middle of packing up your home in Mexico for a long road-trip to New Mexico. With all the stresses inherent in the moving process you cannot be serious about keeping the dog?

We usually balance heart and head. We do this by gauging the correctness of the decision based on either best practice from the past or a good outcome in the future. We had neither data source available.

So what is a gut instinct anyway?

There is a large body of research indicating that our stomach has its own brain very different from that in our head. It holds a capacity to evaluate a situation at an emotional level in a flash. It is an intuitive knowing. So it is not just a metaphor. It is a physiologically based instinct that we either trust or distrust and use or neglect.

Why did we rescue that puppy? What are some components of an instinctive decision?

  1. Synchronicity.

At times there are seemingly random events that if carefully observed, form a pattern that eventually presents a compelling picture. We had been planning to rescue another dog anyway. But why this dog when we had seen dozens of seemingly abandoned dogs in our Mexican town? Such events don’t have to lead to a passive belief that “this was supposed to be.” Nor are they just a chance factors. In fact, they are a “message in a bottle” from the universe instructing us to act against what seems to be our better judgment.

  1. Values.

In a world where at times it seems that it is “every person for him/herself” there are deeper values that operate like a moral GPS. These can come into play in gut level decisions if we are willing to attend to and build on them. Included in these values is a sense that as humans (and animals) we are all one. We have an obligation to take care of each other especially the weaker and disadvantaged in our midst.

In the case of the puppy we could not leave her in the field. Nor could we depend on the vet whom we had examine the puppy to adopt her out (the vet was willing). The universe had brought this helpless animal our way and we had to step up to the plate and adopt her.


We adopted Dixon (named after our new home town). She is now 5 months old, is slowly becoming house trained, and we are now only getting up a 5am with her barking for attention. We are deeply fond of her. Her and our older dog Sawyer are constantly playing with each other and romping all over our place in the country.


How were you guided when your head and heart contradicted each other in a major leadership decision?






About cedricj

I am a licensed psychologist and management consultant and have always been intrigued by how leaders can inspire people in their organizations. The bottom line is that people are not always motivated by material rewards, the use of the carrot or the stick, fear and intimidation,and command and control, Five human needs inspire and drive us. Kristine S MacKain, Ph.D and myself describe these inspirational forces in our book "What Inspirational Leaders Do" (Kindle 2008)
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to When The Crazy Thing is the Right Thing – Leadership Lessons From Adopting A Puppy

  1. Lorinda says:

    Sweet! Sounds like Kris. Always big hearted!

  2. I was faced with a major leadership decision when, after months of fruitless searching my wife and I came across the house of our dreams. It had the antiquity we sought, in our dream location, with all the functionality we needed. It was valued at twice the price we were asking for our house.

    We had not sold our house, so clearly we could not afford to buy this one.

    We bought it. Took out a very large mortgage, sold the other house a year later. We made it.

    What guided the decision? Purpose: wanting to make the most of our remaining years together and knowing you only live once. Also a belief that we can all achieve far more than we think. And a track record of being lucky. Something usually turns up.

    So: faith, belief and previous experience.

    • cedricj says:

      Thanks for sharing your story Michael. We have just had a very similar experience in buying our new home in New Mexico. The place spoke to both of our needs and also seemed out of our reach. However, we persisted in our quest. The resources we needed came in from a completely unpredictable source. I have always operated on the belief that one needs to launch out in faith even when the odds seem against us. It is so much better than living with regrets and unfulfilled dreams.

  3. Very good post. I am very much into the “synchronicity” thing, I am a scientist and can’t explain it but it exists. Too many coincidences happened to me to call it luck. For example we wanted to adopt a puppy and someone wanted to give us one. Hopefully, we got a job offer to move in a new country and we decided to postpone the project. My head told me we were not really ready to assume all the responsibilities of raising a dog in a family who moves every 3 years on average and loves going diving in places that are not dog friendly. But my gut feelings tell me that adopting a dog would be a good thing for our house to give some emotional stability, especially for my teenage boy who has lost friends so many times by moving to 7 different schools from age 3 to 14.

    • cedricj says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful and personal response Anne. With our peripatetic life styles we have both adventure and disruption. However, the real stability your son experiences is the maturity and sensitivity in his parents. He is already a world citizen and does not see things from inside the bubble of one culture. The puppy is a metaphor of our lives. Adventure and destabilization (think 5am wake up calls). In the end the joys are greater than the challenges.

      Best regards


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s