Everyday leadership: Loyalty can’t be faked

I looked over my left shoulder from the seat on my bicycle and there as always was Lucky, my mixed lab and cocker spaniel following at a distance of about 20 feet.

My bicycle was laden with copies of The Kentucky Post that I delivered five days a week in the evenings. As I coasted down one of the back streets of Morehead, Ky, Lucky picked up his pace. On I went to the Eagle Nest restaurant where Lucky waited patiently by the door as I carried in a stack of newspapers. Down Main Street, he followed my bicycle with a quick gait.

Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere a large dog appeared heading straight for my leg. I had seen this dog before and had passed him with no mishap, but today was different.

I tried to speed up unsuccessfully as the dog gained ground. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lucky running faster than I had ever seen him run before. He intercepted the dog fewer than 5 feet from my bicycle. They rolled a couple of times and the other dog took off back home. Lucky continued behind my bicycle as though the tussle never occurred. He was my hero.

A few months before my ninth birthday, I acquired my first and best dog. When grown, Lucky weighed about 45 pounds with a wavy, coal black coat. He had the best personality of any dog I ever knew. I named him Lucky because I felt lucky to get him when we happened upon him at a friend’s house after my friend’s dog birthed a litter. Lucky was the cutest and friendliest of the group. We took another pup that we named Blackie for my younger brother, Jack. Being both males, Blackie and Lucky had a hard time monitoring their relationship. They fought tooth and nail. We actually found teeth in the yard after one of their frequent fights. Unfortunately, Blackie met his match one day as he tried to chase off a car and got too close to his prey.

For some reason, Lucky captured the affection of the family. My mother still remembers looking out the upstairs window and seeing Lucky lit up by the moon curled up in the back yard. He was always around early in the morning waiting for an ear scratching or a chin rub.

Many people have shared with me learnings and understandings that they have gained from experiences with their pets. Lucky was a friend to me, one of my best. He protected me with every inch of his fiber. He was consistently with me when I delivered newspapers on the icy roads, in the driving snow, or when a bigger dog with a bad disposition threatened me. Lucky was adaptable whether in the city at Morehead or back on the farm in Monroe County. Above all, Lucky was loyal. Leaders could also learn from Lucky. Loyalty is an important characteristic for leaders. They should strive to be loyal to the business, the employees, and the customer. Loyalty pays off in greater motivation of employees and customers. It can’t be faked. It must come from the heart.

R. Glenn Ray, Ph.D., is the president of RayCom Learning. To learn more about Ray’s completely revised, third printing of “The Facilitative Leader: Behaviors that Enable Success,” visit his Web site, www.raycomlearning.com. Everyday Leadership appears each Wednesday on the Business page.