Guest post: Follow the leader

Guest post: Follow the leader

Working a couple of Saturday morning dishes and laundry shifts recently, I had the opportunity to work side by side with some amazing volunteers, both new and experienced.

The experienced ones shared tips for efficiency and the tacit assurance that we older cats can most definitely learn new tricks. Meanwhile, the new ones gave hope and inspiration.

We all worked hard – together. We all did the job – together. And, it all got me thinking while I was mopping (you’d be amazed where the brain may go when you’re slopping a mop), that leadership development seminars and leadership training are a bunch of hooey.

Believe me, I’ve been through my share (I told you they were skis, Mr. Loudypants Obnoxious Bully Person).

The best leadership training is in the trenches – ideally, the Tabby’s Place laundry room – working side by side as part of the team. True leaders will see needs, assess situations, figure out solutions to problems. Then, they will engage their colleagues in a cooperative effort to handle the tasks at hand and overcome challenges. Others will happily follow their lead, when their solutions are logical and they are willing to roll up their sleeves to do the hard work, too.

True leaders are natural-born, but not necessarily born into inheritable (or greasy palm) positions. There is no pedigree for actual leadership ability except innate ability. From recognizing good ideas to willingness to give credit where it is due, leadership skills are difficult to teach and hard to learn (it can be done, so don’t give up trying!).

These are things that every single cat knows.

No uncouth beasties they. Cats are the cream of the crop, the cherry on the sundae, the whip in the cream. We follow their lead willingly, happily, and sometimes with scoopers and pans in hand. They guide us masterfully, determining who is responsible for play time, lap time, treat time, groom time, nap time, and so forth. We slide into different roles depending on the cat and the day, always following their lead.

Except sometimes.

Once in a blue moon, on the rarest of days, in the rarest of ways, a cat will cede the tiniest iota of control. On these most unusual occasions, a cat will actually follow a human’s lead. Rather, a cat will delegate a microscopic amount of responsibility to a person.

Such it has been for me with Chewie. Over the last four years, I have been wooing Chewie, with his hesitant permission. Having comfort buddies in Suite A meant that I’d see him frequently, and, whenever he’d see me, he’d run away – all the way away into the main suite or solarium, wherever I wasn’t.

Poor Chewie! What a shy guy!

So, I set to work in the role Chewie delegated to me: Soother-Blinker. My job, as I understood it, was to slow blink, yawn, and soothe to the very best of my ability. It took a long time, but Chewie did stop running out of the room when I entered.  The next step was getting him to stop running up the ramp away from me.

We were making decent, albeit slow, progress, when everything came to an unceremonious halt.

And, then, one day, an opening became available that I was able to fill. Once my regular Friday afternoon shifts started, Chewie put me right back to work. But, something had changed. Chewie would stay put, as long as I didn’t move too quickly. I’d chat with him. He’d blink at me. One day, I reached out slowly, so he could sniff my hand.

Wash, rinse, repeat.

And then it happened. I was able to give Chewie just the very lightest touch. Chewie! Touch! I touched Chewie!

Mind you, this was not a true pet or stroke. This was the very barest contact. Yet, it truly happened!!

Of course, he immediately demoted me and gave me demerits. But, when Chewie relocated, it was at a moderate to slow speed, and he only went as far as another bed on the other side of the solarium, the same distance from me as he had been before I touched him.

It may never happen again.

I’m not going to force it.

I’ll just follow Chewie’s lead.

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