Attitude Reflects Leadership by Karen M. Haller
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One of my favorite sports movie lines comes from Remember the Titans.  In the southern community which is going through severe racial tensions, two players, one black, the other white, begin as archenemies, but end up becoming best friends as they unite their interracial team and many members of the community by joining forces to win football games and the championship. Julius, the offensive captain who happens to be black, says to Gary, the team’s defensive captain who is white, “Attitude reflects leadership.” This is a pivotal moment not only for the team but for their relationship and the interactions of all the team members and the community as a whole. Solid leadership at the top trickles down to all levels to a point where strong relationships of comradery develop among all members involved, whether it be team, staff, students or players. The leader or head is present to guide the organization, however, a good  guide and mentor will troubleshoot if necessary. The effective team runs smoothly due to strong bonds of community and common goals. Tony Dungy states this point, “Unity of purpose and a desire to make other people better must start at the top if these goals are going to ripple through an entire organization” (Dungy, p.2). As Julius said to his teammate and co-captain Gary, the team will work properly and smoothly if the leaders demonstrate strength, compassion, and vision.

            When my SAR Director asks me to include a new member into the canine program because they have shown a desire to work dogs, he first asks me to teach the individual to flank and watch for an entire month before they hook up a dog. At first I thought, wow, this is a long time. The person may not stick with me. However, Director Casey wants the new canine handler to really see what is involved in canine training. It is not just hooking up the canine and walking in the park. The new handler must really see that I have to train three times per week every month to get my 12 trails in per dog (I have two) for the monthy training logs. The new handler must see that logs have to be maintained and reviewed annually. The amount of gear can be costly in addition to food for the canine, veterinary check- ups, gas, and I cannot even begin to tell someone about the wear on the body. I am solid when I teach, very process oriented, step-by-step and methodical in my teaching methods. I am patient and kind, and willing to go all out to help someone learn. However, I need to understand that not all people are suited for canine SAR work. I often forget that many individuals who say they want to work dogs, really do not have the same drive and commitment as I do. I expect that the individual will show the same dedication to train three times a week every month. I am always disappointed when they hang in there for a couple months, then tell me they cannot keep up the commitment. My sons and daughter help me when asked and really enjoy training, flanking, and even taking videos behind me as I trail with my canines. However, as a team leader of our K9 Unit, how do I keep people beyond my family motivated in this training? The fact is, they really have to buy into the entire program and realize it takes a great deal of time and devotion every week in order to certify and maintain certification.

In order to keep members interested, I have suggested that they develop the training session, find the training area, and even create a complete team event. I can keep the training interesting and encourage team members to persevere, however, to keep someone motivated, to have that faith needed, the faith that we will be deployed in a search, especially when searches are few and far between, I have to remind them of the long-term goal, that we are always on call and there will be a time when the SAR unit needs us, so we must be prepared with finely honed skills. Even when people come and go, my core group remains because I have engrained it in their minds that we are needed, be patient, but be ready.

 How do I personally keep members motivated? First, I have to communicate weekly and provide opportunities for training. I like to give dates, but be flexible for everybody’s schedule at the same time. Second, I have to be a solid role model. My team members see me training every week, with Plantar Fascia, after knee surgery, even in the dark after work. In order for me to positively influence other handlers, they have to see me doing the work as well. Dungy explains that creating a successful program includes “creating a culture that will live on through succeeding generations” (Dungy, p.15). In order to perpetuate the success of our K9 Unit, not only do I lead, but the other team members must also have a hand in teaching, training and evaluating other members, including me. I encourage my son to evaluate me, teach me, and critique my performance, because after all, I cannot see what I am doing while trailing.

I hope that I have been and continue to be a successful mentor to my three children. For my older two, the transition into adult hood has been difficult, especially for my son. I try to guide him to make the right decisions without enabling but also without demanding. It is a definite balancing act. As a mentor and mother, I want to nudge, explain and help him to see that he needs to live purposefully. I try to instill the idea that the now will lead to the future, and each step in the direction he is taking will build toward his future goals. I stress to him to be patient and that time is needed. I praise the little things that he does, because the smallest of praise leads to more success and more praise. Soon confidence is created and as my mom says, “The world is your oyster.” It has taken a bit of time, but finally he is gaining faith in my vision and my teachings and knows I will guide him and always help him to obtain his goals.

In our society, many people believe success is equated with dollars made or how high up in the ranks a person climbs in the business, job setting, or educational institution. I believe firmly that success is to do well with the talents God has given you. My Masters Thesis for Education is based on Howard Gardner’s nine intelligences. In schools, success is measured often by how well one does with paper and pencil tests. However, according to Gardner and my own belief, we have many intelligences. Some people, like my boys, are mechanical, I am naturalistic but also linguistic, my daughter and brother are talented musicians and my mom is very kinesthetic. Whichever intelligence you may be endowed with, you are successful if you utilize and nurture that talent to its fullest. When I die, I want my tombstone to read, “She helped others achieve their best.” I always say that, and I mean it. I want to go down saying I did the best I could with what talents the Good Lord gave me, and I helped people to succeed while utilizing my talents.




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