Muddy Boots (or Paws) Leadership

By MG John Gronski (USA, Ret.)

My dog Scottie has muddy boots.

To be more accurate, I guess I should say he has muddy paws.

I think all leaders can learn from him.

Scottie gets around. He does not sit back behind his desk and let the world around him pass him by. He checks on things. he looks in on his neighbors. He is always coming around to see how I am doing with a smile on his face and joy in his heart.

Are you like that? Are you a muddy boots leader?

Abraham Lincoln exemplified Muddy Boots Leadership. Donald T. Phillips in his book, “Lincoln On Leadership” brought this point to light when writing about the relationship he had with his generals. He never expected them to come back to the White House to report. Lincoln went forward to visit them. He went forward to Burnside at Fredericksburg, McClellan at Antietam, and Hooker at Chancellorsville. Near the end of the war, he visited Grant at City Point.

Lincoln did not suffer leaders who refused to get out from their headquarters in order to obtain the ground truth of the situation. He relieved General Fremont from his command in Missouri because he felt Fremont lost connection with the situation at hand due to isolating himself in his headquarters.

Not All Muddy Boots Leaders Are Effective

Not all muddy boots leaders are effective. Some micromanage. Some try to wrestle control of the situation away from subordinates who are charged with dealing with the tactical situation. This is not effective.

A Good Muddy Boots Leader

Effective muddy boots leaders are wise enough to behave in ways that improve a situation rather than impede effectiveness. A good muddy boots leader will look into the eyes of those they visit and get a sense of the people’s morale and resolve. A good muddy boots leader will discover if the senior leader’s intent is being communicated down to the lower levels. A muddy boots leader will bolster those out in the workplace by displaying gratitude and understanding of the challenges the workers face and overcome every day.

An effective muddy boots leader will gain an understanding of the environment the people operate in so the leader can remove obstacles and provide the resources so the followers can conduct their work efficiently. A good muddy boots leader will ask for opinions and recommendations and use good ideas to improve the organization while giving the folks who have those good ideas appropriate credit.

Muddy Boots Leaders believe they can gain a bigger advantage from reading people rather than reading reports. Be a Muddy Boots Leader and make my dog Scottie proud.

Are you a Muddy Boots Leader?


To read more of John Gronski’s leadership blogs click here.

Continue your leadership journey by ordering a signed copy of Iron-Sharpened Leadership here.

About John Gronski

Major General John L. Gronski (U.S. Army Retired) is the founder and CEO of Leader Grove LLC, a leadership consulting firm. John is the author of two books, Iron-Sharpened Leadership and The Ride of Our Lives and he is an international and Fortune 500 speaker.

A decorated combat Veteran, infantryman, and Ranger School graduate, John is a transformational leader and also has significant experience in business as a management consultant, where he led teams implementing large, complex projects. He now serves as an executive coach, leadership consultant, and trainer.

Learn more about John Gronski at https://johngronski.com/

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