Good Leaders: How does sorrow enrich your leadership?

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My buddy Max passed on Easter Saturday and I'm still wading through the sorrow.

My buddy Max passed on Easter Saturday and I’m still wading through the sorrow.

Odes to man’s best friend are as endless as the ocean – individual as snowflakes. Last Saturday morning, our oldest dog Max died in my arms. Today, I’m still wading through sorrow and inspired to offer my ode.

What does the passing of a household dog have to do with Good Leadership!? Sorrow is currency for reflection, inspiration and goodness.  No one promised the journey would always be sunshine and chocolate chip cookies…and everyone knows sometimes it hurts to love someone deeply.

At 15 1/2 years old, Max aged well into his Shiatsu-Poodle grey beard. He was 12 pounds of grandpa gentleness, and a fearless alpha male protector of our home turf. Three 60-pound Labrador Retrievers next door humored him daily as they raced with Max as a pack, back and forth along our adjoining fence.

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Sir Maxwell of the Bloomington Batz family will be missed: my wise, warm and fiery companion.

Sir Maxwell of the Bloomington Batz family will be missed: my wise, warm and fiery companion.

When fatigue caused the parade to stop, Max would continue barking bloody murder with his snout piercing through the chain link – while the Alpha Male on the other side would lift his leg and relieve himself on Max. To say that Max was “pissed” has a complex double meaning.

When I was a kid, we mused about “dog-years” as 7 years to every one human year. That would make Max about 108 when he ate his last treats at the vet. Max was my soul mate during the darkest hours of my mid-life scare with acute angioedema. When others had to go off to school and into work, Max stayed home with me every minute. Faithfully.

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Max was my lap-warmer, and his sister Lola liked to watch as we created blogs in the early morning.

Max was my lap-warmer.  His sister, Lola, liked to watch as we created blogs together  in the early mornings.

As I write this blog, my heart is warm…but my lap is cold. Especially in his latest years, Max loved to join me in our favorite chair as I wrote, thought and prayed. He helped me write my first blog – in our favorite chair – on January 12, 2010. After our son Ben left the home for college – it was Max and me holding our own against a chorus of females. We had a man crush going, and I’m not ashamed to say I miss him.

If it had been easy to say goodbye, then it would have been wrong.

But alas, good leaders understand nothing lasts forever. Things change, evolve, advance. And we keep growing until we decide we don’t. Easter Sunday was the next day  and I found great joy in thinking about the resurrection through the butterscotch soul of Max. I am feeling warmer, wiser and calmer – filled with the undying love and wisdom of Sir Maxwell, the miniature bad-ass protector of the Bloomington Batz family.

Good leaders make a habit of embracing the intense emotions of a life well-lived.  And they grow warmer, wiser and calmer by a life well-loved.

Our readers will appreciate knowing: how has sorrow enriched your leadership?[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

4 Comments

  1. Anne Denny on April 22, 2014 at 9:47 am

    What a beautiful tribute to Max. I’m so sorry for your loss.
    I believe life’s sorrows develop our ability to be compassionate and empathetic towards others, both of which are important characteristics of good leadership.



  2. Catherine A. Heither on April 22, 2014 at 10:16 am

    Paul, I am sorry for your loss. I very much liked how you could see a bigger picture through this event into personal leadership and how important it is to embrace all emotions and aspects of our humanity. Hang in there. Beautiful tribute to Max, too.



  3. Jay Sieling on April 22, 2014 at 10:40 am

    Lovely tribute to Max. Sorry for your loss, Paul. As I was reading this I reflected on my own losses of the past couple years. You’ve captured very well the essence of grief and leadership.

    Two years ago we said goodbye to our golden retriever Rosie. Nine months later I lost Luna, my husky cross rescue. She was only five and got horribly sick the night before I left on a vacation. We later found out she had ingested antifreeze laced food maliciously put out by an evil neighbor.

    Traveling alone, in silence gave lots of time for emotions. I must have looked a wreck, crying in the airport. I went on a fishing trip with my son, and during the hour long run back into the Everglades all I could think about was my dog.

    Your piece today offers insight to the peace that followed. Grief can be overwhelming. Flooding us and tossing us to and fro like flotsam and jetsam. It isn’t that a leader denies or does not feel this. Or steels themselves to the breaking waves. Rather, as you reveal, good leaders embrace emotion. Let it wash over them and come clean on the other side. Wrap themselves in the warmth of memories while feeling sorrow and joy and pain and happiness. A good leader experiences and recognizes all these emotions as part of a continuing journey.

    I think of my dog Luna often. Her collar adorns my rear view mirror. Often the memories are bittersweet. She was taken too soon. But the memories I choose to relish most are, like yours Paul, the memories that marked the meaningful moments we shared. It is not an end or a new beginning. It is a shift in our experience. An experience made richer because we loved and were loved by a good pet.
    God bless you my friend.



  4. Scott Knight on April 22, 2014 at 3:49 pm

    Paul, very touching words about Max. Though I never met him, I can relate to the love AND the loss. Thanks for sharing.



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