How to lead a pack of alpha dogs


The problem with having a company stocked with “A” Players, says author and HR consultant Martha Finney, is that you get a cadre of mouthy, talented people who may follow your leadership, and then only if you work hard to deserve it. This is especially true in the case of younger generations of great employees, who weren’t necessarily raised to have automatic respect for their seniors.

“You are going to feel challenged to prove that your approach is the right one. You might even be put on the defensive, because suddenly whole new populations of people are going to say to you, ‘Prove it,’” Finney states in her blog (

You have two options as Finney sees it:

  1. Squelch what you perceive to be time-wasting interference from buttinsky employees who don’t know your job as well as you do.  (Consequence: Risk losing them to a more collaborative company, like, say, your competitor.)

  2. Hear them out; and be ready to make your own case when someone asks, “Why?” “What for?” (Consequence: You might resent being put on the spot to defend your decisions. Even so, you might get an even better idea by being willing to face down the challenge of why. And you get to hang on to energized, collaborative contributors who are willing to volunteer their brilliance to the company above the call of their formal job description.)

Martin offers these suggestions for managers of alpha dogs:

Look for ways to have authentic, one-on-one conversations with your people. 

Alphas are more likely to listen to you when they know you’ve been listening to them.

Remember that it’s about serving your company and its people.

It’s one thing to look for efficiencies (especially when they free you up to add value to your role). But it’s not acceptable to look for short-cuts just for the sake of making your own day just a little bit easier. Don’t make your own customers — your company’s people — pay for a misguided attempt at smoothing the way for yourself.

Be an A player yourself.

You must bring the same passion for innovation, exploration and personal challenge to your job that you expect your people to bring to theirs. Ask nervy questions, like, “What am I doing here and do I really care about my people?”