Leadership Lessons from the Cat

by Linda Henman, Ph.D.

We often see writing related to all that “man’s best friend” does for us. The role modeling we should follow, the loyalty we should imitate, the sterling virtues we should emulate. Taking nothing away from our canine advisors, I’d like to add a word on behalf of the cat. When it comes to business, we could do worse than to learn some lessons from our feline friends:

1.  Cats excel at time management. They don’t come when you call. Instead, they take a message and get back to you when they find a convenient moment. They don’t allow others’ seemingly urgent occurrences to pull them off task, whatever that task might be.

2. They prioritize. Cats instinctively know that if they don’t take care of themselves first, no one else can benefit. A cat would never have to hear “Put on your own oxygen mask first before helping those around you.” What else would a cat do? Die trying to act the hero?

3. Cats fight fair. You never have to worry about a sudden, unexplained personal attack from a cat. You will receive ample warning of its displeasure. The ears go back; the back goes up; the growl starts; and finally, the hiss emanates. You have to be at least partially dim witted not to realize a cat finds you and your ideas annoying way before damage occurs. Similarly, cats won’t gossip behind your back. They snarl to your face. They communicate clearly, effectively, and sometimes forcefully.

4. Cats don’t care whether you like them or their decisions. They don’t waste time trying to build consensus when a situation demands a tough call. They focus on the best outcome, not the most popular one.

5. People don’t own cats; cats own people. You can purchase a cat, but you can’t buy one. They won’t sell out, no matter the asking price. They either decide to adopt you, or they don’t, but there can be no compromise on their integrity.

6. Cats project an executive demeanor. You’ll never find a cat looking less than its best. They take grooming seriously and show a willingness to engage in it at all costs. Although I’m not recommending the exact nature of cat grooming—seemingly playing the cello when company appears—the principle remains sound. Always show up at your best.

7.  When cats think they need attention, they don’t back down. Persistent and self-disciplined, they will walk over a dog if they think you need to scratch their ears.

8. You won’t find cats worrying about putting in “face time” or playing the martyr. When the job is done or their energy spent, a cat will curl up and take a nap. You don’t ever read about cats having heart attacks, stress-related stomach problems, or anxiety medicines.

Ancient Egyptians revered cats, considering them the epitome of grace and poise. Business leaders would do well to follow suit.

If you found these tips from Linda Henman, Ph.D. of value and are a PMP looking to earn PMI PDUs, you might be interested in her self-paced, downloadable courses at PDUs2Go.com.

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