February 13, 2017

By Bob Vetere

As we usher in a new President of the United States, it is interesting to contemplate just what that means from a leadership position. I am in no way speaking from a political point of view.

What is interesting to me is the dynamic of a person who has spent his life in a leadership position in the business world now moving into a position that is not so clear cut. As a boss, you could merely tell people what to do and you moved on—not so much when you are dealing with a lot of other folks in exactly the same position.

Pleasing the Boss
I spent my previous work-life in the for-profit world. While we always had a chain-of-command, the real “boss” of everything was the stockholder. They decided when you did well and when you didn’t. And it definitely colored the way I operated.

As I reached higher levels in the company, the stockholder became even more important. We would be making short-term decisions on a quarterly basis just to make sure the next shareholder call went well.

While there are a lot of good things that happen in so many of your companies doing it that way, sometimes things get lost in the mix. Many times, looking at long-term, potentially beneficial projects took a back seat to a short-term safety move. Risk-averse was more of a controlling doctrine. I still had control over those who worked for me, and I could lead with that dynamic.

Once I moved over to the not-for-profit world (and never believe that not-for-profit means you never have to balance the books), it became a different dynamic. While working with my wonderful staff still has the same dynamic as before, the ultimate success of what we do has changed. Now I am reaching out to over 1,200 folks who also lead companies. It was no longer easy to tell those people what to do to make it all work. They, effectively, are my new shareholders. That part of the dynamic is actually manageable and makes sense.

The Greater Good
It is when I moved beyond my membership that I really began to better understand what leadership is faced with every day. In trying to work with others to put together the Human Animal Bond Research Intiative (HABRI), it no longer was a case of me telling heads of other companies to give me $50 or $100,000 and I will take care of things. I did not have that power.

The only way to get things done was to work together and compromise—not as easy as telling someone what to do and moving on. And the work in helping to put together the Pet Leadership Council (PLC) is an even more challenging effort. Here we have a large number of folks answering to their shareholders or investment brokers who I am trying to convince to give me money that will have little or no immediate impact on their bottom line.

The key here is the same one I faced in my previous jobs. Living quarter to quarter does not easily open itself up to investing in a longer-term effort that does not immediately pay off.
Much of what we are trying to accomplish industry-wide requires cooperation from a very broad audience. It will not be a simple matter of telling senior executives what to do, but rather to convince them that what we are asking is for the greater good and makes sense for all to join. We are facing many challenges, and we need to focus on addressing them together to make the difference we need to continue to be as successful as we are.

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