I recently had someone on my team introduce me to his family as his boss. I quickly redirected the term boss to “we partner together in our work.” Something about the word boss bothered me. If not boss, then what?
Boss is the term most often used in our culture to represent the authority or leader over you. Boss means a person who exercises control or authority, directing and supervising work. Sometimes, your team does need a boss. The responsibility of leadership will require your direct authority. But, more often, your team needs a shepherd leader.
Shepherd is most often used in reference to someone who herds, tends, and guards sheep. (No puns here on your team being like sheep!) Your team could use your shepherd leadership, and here are three reasons why.
3 Reasons Your Team Needs Shepherd Leadership:
Your team is counting on you to lead them well and to be on the watch for anything that would harm them or the work of the team. This could be an idea that would deviate from the mission or a critic attacking your team. It could mean a new competitor or market disruptor. A shepherd leader is proactive in protecting the team from anything that harms or causes the team to wander off course. Your team needs you to provide clarity with fences or guardrails to protect them even from the good things that can deviate from your strategic focus.
Your team needs you actively engaged, guiding the mission and work of your team forward. They trust you to be looking for the best path for the future and for you to lead them there. If changes need to be made for the good of the team, you will actively guide your team through the changes. They trust the changes because they know you have the future in mind.
Your team needs to know you care about them. You care about the results of their work but you care about them even more – individually and collectively. You care that they are growing, using their gifts, and that they have joy in their work. You care about their family, their health, and their life. A shepherd leader will go out of his/her way to care for their team. If one person is in trouble, they care.
David was a shepherd boy who became a great leader. He wrote a beautiful Psalm (23) that paints a great picture of our Lord as shepherd:
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack. He lets me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake. Even when I go through the darkest valley, I fear no danger; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff – they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Only goodness and faithful love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD as long as I live.”
Have you ever been led by a shepherd leader? What did you learn from them about leadership?