Call of the Wild and Leadership

I must admit, I’ve been away from WordPress for quite awhile. Things get hectic and work’s been a absolute bear. And with work comes leadership training.  One requirement for the leadership course was a book essay. I took a different path from the regular leadership books and read and wrote about Call of the Wild. I’d thought I’d share.

Call of the Wild

A Leadership Perspective

Jack London 1903

1 Minute Summary

The story Call of the Wild is written from the perspective of a dog named Buck. Buck is a porch dog of Saint Bernard and Scottish Shepard mix who watches over his master’s estate in California. He is kidnapped one night by a servant and sold to traders to be taken to the Northern territory to work as a sled dog in the harsh conditions in the 1800 Yukon gold rush. Buck has to overcome many obstacles and hardships. He learns of cruelty and survival. Through the course of the book, Buck shows his tenacity and leadership. He becomes part of a team, eventual leader, and faces insurmountable challenges. He is eventually saved from a certain death and becomes loyal to his final owner. Buck is drawn to the Arctic wilderness and eventually becomes leader of a pack of wolves and fully evolves from a domestic dog to answer the Call of the Wild.

Buck’s Leadership Qualities and the Team He Leads

Buck changes throughout the story from a pampered Southern house dog into the leader of a pack of sled dogs. Buck proved that he could become a leader by adapting to his surroundings and situations, learning from his teammates, coordinating his team of sled dogs, and by attempting to accomplish his given tasks regardless of the effort it might take. Buck demonstrated his ability to adapt both mentally and physically, with examples being his use of creativity to defeat Spitz and needing to eat less as time passed with him in the Yukon. Buck was capable of learning from both his situation and his teammates to survive in his new environment; his usage of sleeping in the snow (which was first practiced by his fellow sled dogs) is an example of this capability. Buck showed leadership skills in coordinating his team of sled dogs after taking over Spitz’s position as lead dog, as before he accomplished this task the dogs were not working together productively. Finally, Buck demonstrated his determination when he was owned by the Scott, heedless of the weight of the load he was pulling or of the distance he had to travel; Buck never gave up or stopped working.

Buck constantly had to deal with change. Even at the end of the book, Buck went through a transition phase where he would go back and forth from the wild to his domestic life until finally reaching the point in which he makes the decision to stay with his wolf pack.

The Team

Just as we all have served on diverse teams, Buck too was no different. His team consisted of: 

Spitz: Original dog sled leader and Buck’s rival who lead with fear and intimidation.

Curly: Buck’s first friend on the team and a bit naive.

Dave: Another of Buck’s first companions and one of the most knowledgeable sled dogs. Dave comes to life when he is in the harness, motivated and takes pride in his work.

Sol-leks: Like Dave, he is aloof until attached to the sled. He has suffered poor treatment in the past.

Billie: Good-natured and sweet, shows Buck how to make a bed in the snow. Billie is a friendly and helpful member of the team.

Joe: Billie’s brother and is always snarling and defensive.

Pike: Often referred to as “the malingerer.” He rarely gets up on time, steals food and generally undermines the expedition. When Buck becomes leader, he forces Pike to shape up and become a helpful member of the team.

Dub: The awkward goof ball of the team.

When we examine all the members of Buck’s team, we can relate each of them to similar people who have served on teams with us.

Biography of Jack London

London is a San Francisco native, born in the late 1800’s and was a traveler and adventurer in his youth. London not only traveled on trains and ships, but also participated in the Yukon gold rush. London used these experiences for inspiration in his stories. Writing and getting published greatly disciplined London and because of this, he made it a practice to write at least a thousand words a day. Jack London is recognized in literature more for his inspirational stories about man and nature than for his literary prowess.

Why I chose the book

While helping my son study for his English courses, we came into the discussion of the book Call of the Wild. I had remembered the book from school when I was younger, but I didn’t think I was ever required to read it. In our talks, I developed a fondness for the book and put it on my list of “Things to Read.” I had always heard the book mentioned when people discussed leadership, so I took the opportunity not only to read the story of a dog named Buck and his call to the wild but to use it to discuss life’s lessons and leadership.

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