"Because it can!"
This is a joke, and a tribute to the late great George Carlin, but it is also a parable for leadership behavior. Dogs have no clue that this behavior could somehow be socially or situationally unacceptable. Neither do many entrepreneurial leaders.
Leaders do it Too
Why do leaders behave poorly in plain sight, when their behavior is clearly socially, ethically or generally unacceptable? Because they can (and it feels good).
It's amazing the antics that leaders will demonstrate in the open without any clue that they are licking their balls in public.
The parable works for men or women leaders, metaphorically speaking, of course. In fact after years of teaching this point to entrepreneurs and teams of managers, it seems women tend to get this point better than men and find it highly amusing and memorable. Hmmm…….
The sad part is that this silly joke represents a very real and potent issue among entrepreneurial leaders. They are often inexperienced, emotional, and lack the practice, training, skills and sensory acuity to be aware that they often "lick their balls" in public.
"Thinking Off" in public
A great example is when "ball licking is paired with "thinking off", the practice of mental masturbation. Entrepreneurial leaders tend to operate in their own bubble, and because they are the ideators, originators, founders, managers, and chief cook and bottle washers, they think about stuff, a lot. Too much. And they do it in public, in front of their team, or clients or prospects or stakeholders, and they don’t have a clue.
It's particularly problematic with charismatic leaders who tend to have high percentages of narcissism in their style of leadership. This type of leader will even fight to hog the stage in order to "think off' in public. Why? Because they can (and it feels good). And just like no one will tell a dog to stop licking its balls in public, amazingly, no one will tell the boss to stop it either.
Public Entrepreneurial Denialitis is a Problem
Another example is when "ball licking" is coupled with "denialitis", infectious denial. The Dilbert cartoon series is an hilarious parody of this type of pervasive leadership behavior. Unfortunately, entrepreneurship frequently is full of unpleasant circumstances and denial is an all too common leadership behavior. The problem is that it rubs off on followers.
Effective entrepreneurial leadership is about walking into challenges and facing them with integrity. Stopping to lick one's balls along the way is natural, but not healthy. (and besides, everyone is watching).
Why Does a Dog Stop Licking its Balls? Because it Can.
An important part of entrepreneurship is dedication to personal and organizational transformation and mastery practices. Some of the most important practices are integrity based leadership, discernment and personal transformation. Why Does a Dog Lick it's Balls is a working metaphor, a teaching phrase, that allows anyone through its use (spoke or unspoken) to practice three key Disciplines of Inquiry;
- discernment of truth, in self and others;
- awareness of self and other's "dis-integrity";
- and the practice of personal transformation toward personal integrity (no more ball-licking).
If you are a leader and you think you may have this problem, or if you are a team member and have a "ball-licker" in your midst, what do you do?
And now that you have read about this, and learned about it, how many times can you now recognize this behavior is others?