Cattle dog leadership

A fellow in Australia named Attila Ovari began following my blog a while back. I thought his name was remarkable, and decided to give his blog a read in return.

He is a management consultant, and a husband and father, and involved in a hundred projects at once. He is very interesting, and you should give his blog a look.

He wrote a piece recently about something he called “cattle dog leadership,” which I liked very much.

In it, he tells a story about leading a bunch of people (in automobiles) to a destination. He’d given them directions in advance. To his surprise, instead of following him, they took the lead. They made mistakes a couple of times, but he paused when they did, and they came back to him, and then they resumed their course.

So: he was like a cattle dog, staying behind the herd, just giving them guidance when they got off course, but letting them figure out most of it by themselves.

It’s an interesting concept. I’m not much usually for management theory, but I like this, and I liked the way he described it, and I wondered about its applicability in the everyday work environment. Does it work? Can you let your staff just stray out into the wilderness (even with instructions), only giving them guidance when they get off-course?

Well, of course you can.

But it takes a full-time hard-working manager to do that.

And most managers aren’t full-time. (A number of them aren’t hard-working either, for that matter, but let’s not go there.) Most of the managers in my office are doing the same work (more or less) as their subordinates; the “management” portion is a (usually) unwelcome portion of their job.

Some of them are actually mentoring their subordinates. This is wonderful, but, as I said, very time-consuming.

Is there a happy medium?

I’m not sure.

Because those cattle dogs, you know, they work awfully hard.


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

2 Responses to Cattle dog leadership

  1. Attila Ovari says:

    Thank you for the blog and kind words about myself….. I look forward to more communication into the future.

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