“We are more alike than we are unalike.”
Dr. Maya Angelou
About a year ago, one of my neighbors adopted a dog. She rescued a greyhound and named him Sunny. Over the course of several months she nurtured and cared for this shy and
somewhat anxious dog to be more at ease with his new life. After almost a year of incremental socialization and positive training and attention from Sunny’s new owners, he slowly adjusted to his new life of play and leisure, as well as love and attention from people, other dogs and neighborhood children. It was a remarkable transformation and a true testament to what is possible through dedication, attention and of course, love. My own dog, Boomer, who is relentless in his desire to socialize with every dog possible, was always excited to see Sunny. He was happy the day that he first met the shy greyhound and was excited to have more play time with Sunny as the once scared greyhound grew more bold and curious. Whenever we saw Sunny, Boomer would pull me down the street towards his friend while wagging his tail the entire time.
This summer, tragedy struck. Sunny wandered from his house and was hit by a car. Sunny was badly injured but alive. After emergency surgery, Sunny made it. His left hind leg, however, did not make it and had to be amputated. Sunny would now have to face life with two front legs and one hind leg. A couple of weeks post surgery, I saw Sunny out for a walk. He had a tremendous scar on his back side, and stitches closing the large wound that indicated where his leg was once attached. But he was alive, and although a bit confused about the whereabouts of his leg, seemed to be on the way to recovery. His owners were also recovering, dealing with their guilt that they felt responsible for Sunny’s condition, pain and lost leg.
Almost two months have passed since the accident. Recently, I saw Sunny and his owner walking while I was out walking my dog. I could tell it was Sunny from a distance by his gate. This amazing creature that was built for speed, and for chasing with dedicated focus and physical power, now limped along with an awkward gate that clearly indicated that something was different; something was wrong. I looked at Sunny with some sadness but also inspiration as he overcame his injury, which was now also a permanent handicap. He was different from who he was as well as from other four legged dogs.
But what did Boomer see when he saw Sunny on this day? Once my dog noticed Sunny, his tail started to wag, (as did Sunny’s) and he started pulling down the street so that we could visit his buddy. Tails were wagging, noses were sniffing as the dogs panted with excitement. Both dogs were quite happy to see each other! I found myself wondering about what my dog saw (or did not see) in Sunny. I noticed a limping Sunny, injured and I was sad for his lost leg. But what did my dog see? He saw Sunny! He saw his friend! He did not see imperfection, or damage. He did not see difference. He didn’t see three legs, or injury or even greyhound for that matter. Nor was he wondering about Sunny’s position on global warming, work title, or favorite football team. He just saw his friend as did Sunny. The only ones focused on the imperfections and the differences were- the people.
So here is my point. If a dog can look at another dog and see past differences, then why can’t we? What would it be like if we greeted each other by focusing on what is the same about us and not what is different about us? There will always be difference and there are so many categories of difference, that I cannot list them all. But in this age of fitting in, whether it is at work, socially or children at school, what would it be like if we could see our similarities, our common interests and our potential as humans? I know that this challenge is a tall order.
Today, around the country, (and around the corner) kids are being bullied at school for perceived differences and even taking their own lives when feeling alone. Maybe we can learn something from the wisdom of Boomer and Sunny. I invite all of us to demonstrate leadership by seeing the potential in others, (as well as ourselves) not just the difference, whether they are two legged, four legged or three legged. As Maya Angelou said, “We are more alike than we are unalike.” We are more than our shortcomings, our breed, our physical features, political stance, religion, skin color, gender, geographical location, nationality, organizational rank, financial stature, or favorite sports team. And from a business metrics point of view, there is no value in judgmental delineation. There is no return on investment in separation, isolation and hatred. When we see opportunity then we can build on it. We can have a return on investment.
Yes we are all different and it is when we focus on our depth, our similarities, our commonalities and our potential that we, as leaders, will make a difference.
Thank you for reading this article. I wish you all positive energy, support, and courage as you continue your leadership journey. I welcome you to please share your thoughts and comments with other readers in the comments section below.
Larysa Slobodian, MA
Principal Consultant, L4 Leadership LLC