If you want to learn to put people first, study the actions and reactions of a puppy. Puppies have the five characteristics that people-first leaders simply must learn to posses.

1. Puppies care about your presence, not your past. Puppies are forgiving by nature. They don’t ask where you’ve been, and they don’t care what time you were supposed to be home. Whenever you arrive, they’re glad to see you.

Like a puppy, cut people some slack. The best leaders create grace-filled organizations. They accept apologies, forget insults and offer people the most valuable gift imaginable: a second chance.

2. Puppies are terrible at hiding their intentions. Puppies never fake their emotions. Their sloppy kisses, jump-up greetings and wagging tails are always genuine. Without being impulsive, good leaders manage to be open and honest with those around them. When they give praise—and they do—it’s genuine. When they have valid criticism, they find appropriate ways to make it known. Good leaders have no hidden agendas. What you see is what you get.

3. Puppies aren’t concerned with pedigrees. When the caregiver walks through the front door, a puppy never checks his or her credentials or cares about the letters behind the name. Puppies know when they’re loved, and that’s enough. Christian leaders must major on caring. The best leaders are always more concerned with the souls of people than with their performance or their achievements.

4. Puppies are loyal by nature. If there is a loyalty gene, all puppies have it. People-first leaders are loyal, too. The greatest leader of all, Jesus, could have yanked the WWJD bracelet off of Peter’s wrist after Peter denied the Lord three times. Instead, Jesus forgave Peter and offered him a fresh ministry assignment: “Feed My sheep.” Good leaders don’t give up on people. They stick with their team through thick and thin.

5. Puppies are enthusiastic. Puppies have a way of spreading sunshine wherever they go. They enjoy life, and everybody knows it. Good leaders love life, and that’s not all. They love their work, also. Their enthusiasm is contagious. They raise morale wherever they go. Set a positive tone, and you’ll get positive results.

People first. That’s the best advice any leader can receive. No organization is stronger, smarter or more dynamic than the people of which it is comprised. Build your people, and you’ll build your future.

Sound impossible? If a puppy can do it, why can’t you?

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