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What Cesar Millan Taught Me About Leadership

July 8, 2012
Cesar Millan’s final “The Dog Whisperer,” TV show is on tonight. After nine years of helping millions of people rehabilitate their dogs, Cesar is moving on to a different show format in January.

After stumbling on Cesear’s show about six years ago, it was an eye opener, not just for training Reilly but also for my growth as a person. Cesar’s books, DVDs and TV shows offer many great tips and training techniques for dogs — but you’re probably wondering how they apply to human psychology.

As Cesar says, he “trains people and rehabilitates dogs.” Quite simply, he teaches people the very essential lesson: Someone has to be the pack leader. Dogs want and need a balanced, stable leader. In most American homes, the humans don’t know this. They don’t act like pack leaders. So the leaderless dog will feel compelled to step up to become pack leader. But since humans don’t understand what the dog is communicating, this creates an environment that produces an anxious, misbehaving dog. Aggression, biting, anxious barking, obsessions, phobias, and a range of other behaviors result.

The eye-opener for me was when I realized: Hey, humans are social animals, just as dogs are. Wouldn’t the same rule apply to us? Wouldn’t humans also want and need balanced, stable, reliable leaders? The answer is, of course, yes! And the result of a lack of human leadership in our interpersonal relationships is the same — aggression, violence, emotional distress, anxiety, obsessions, depression, phobias, social avoidance, ADHD, personality disorders, etc., etc. Pretty much every “diagnosis” of “mental illness” can be traced to a vacuum of leadership in that person’s life.

When emotionally insecure people feel as if they are thrust into a leadership position, even if it is just as leader of one other person, they can develop behavioral and emotional problems.

I saw this lesson in my own life immediately. My second husband was violent, abusive, controlling and a substance abuser. I often wondered why he was this way when I gave him no reason to over-react as he did. I was as non-threatening as a person can be. I don’t want to simplify too much (but it’s a blog, so I must!), but because he had very low self-worth he felt unprepared to be any type of leader, even if it was to a pack of one.

I learned this lesson far too late to fix that marriage. However, by learning that humans need pack leaders, I had discovered a fundamental element of Pack Leader Psychology that would grow into my new book.

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