Lead. Follow. Lead.
These three words sound simple, but I quickly learned it’s more difficult to apply than one might imagine.
For me (Troy Kechely), the first time I heard them was in one of a dozen emails from my K9 instructor after he reviewed a video of a training sessions with my dog Daisy. As I stumble through the process of learning how to transform Daisy and I into an explosive’s detection (EDD) K9 team, he made it clear I would hear those words often.
He was right.
Not only do I hear them from him, but I also find myself repeating them constantly. I even contemplated a tattoo on my arm as a reminder.
So, what does lead, follow, lead actually mean?
In the context of an EDD K9 team, it means that as a handler there are times to lead the dog and a time to follow the dog. The trick is not only knowing when to do each, but to have the willingness to learn. Specifically, the “when” to follow part. Humans tend to want to always lead, especially when working with animals. Perhaps it is pride or a superiority complex, but it is a struggle. A good handler must learn to trust the dog. That is a phrase I’ve heard often. Trust the dog.
The handler leads the dog on the search up until the dog begins to show signs it’s on an odor. It’s then that the handler must relinquish their leadership role and trust the dog and follow. If the dog is struggling or you need to move to another area, then you lead again.
Lead. Follow. Lead.
What’s interesting is that the more I repeat those words the more I see their application to all aspects of life—especially within teams such as those in special operations.
Effective teams are comprised of members who know when to lead and when to follow. This comes with trust. Trust is earned through time, training, and real-world deployments. Once this is earned, trust your teammate that they will do their job, just like they trust you to do yours.
Trust to lead, follow, lead.
Trust is the key. Both in the K9 and Special Operations world. If you want to learn more about this concept and others that make Special Operations and EDD K9 teams so amazing, then be a leader. Get signed up for the Special Operations Writers Conference and bring your friends.