Shepherds, Sheepdogs, and Sheep

Have we forgotten the role of the shepherd?

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Going back to the early days of LeadershipVoices.com, you will find some thoughts and words expressed by some guest authors on the importance of being a “sheepdog” and guarding the “sheep.” Although there was no intent to make a value judgment, many leaders are drawn to the sheepdog when asked to describe themselves and given the choice between the two options.

But what about the shepherd?

Yeah, what about the shepherd? Where does he fit into all of this? My experience in animal husbandry was as a hired hand on a dairy farm back in the late 1970s. I don’t have a lot of experience with sheep. But this much I do know. It is the shepherd that leads the sheep. It is not the sheepdog. The sheepdog serves a vital function. The sheepdog is quick and agile and is able to run so much faster than the shepherd. But note that the sheepdog takes commands and directions from the shepherd and then goes out and performs them with great energy and efficiency.

Sheepdog Strengths

Many times the sheepdog acts without explicit direction from the shepherd. The sheepdog, having been trained by the shepherd, sees that the sheep that are wandering from the rest of the flock and will instinctively go and round them up. The sheepdog will jump into the fray and into the face of danger in order to protect the sheep from wild animals or predators.

Sheepdog Shortcomings

But the sheepdog does not survey the land and choose the path that the flock will take. The sheepdog cannot select the greenest pastures. Because the sheepdog’s diet is not the same as the sheep and therefore it cannot judge the quality of the grazing land. In fact, to be completely honest, the sheepdog could be completely content to eat one of the sheep that it guards. Just let that sink in for a second. These are just several shortcomings of the vaunted sheepdog.

Strengths of the Shepherd

So, what are the strengths of the shepherd?

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A Leadership Culture

What are the benefits of creating a “Leadership Culture?”

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I have opined much recently on the importance of building more leaders instead of just building followers. That is on of the hallmarks of an organization with a “Leadership Culture.” But, what are the benefits of creating such a culture?

Perhaps the greatest benefit of creating a leadership culture is that it provides a steady supply of capable and experienced leaders to constantly propel the organization forward. If you love sports, you could call their your leadership bench.

How strong is your leadership bench?

When it comes to leadership bench strength, some organizations’ benches are pitifully weak. These organizations often have a leadership model that is personality based and sometimes even “cult-ish” in appearance. There is one leader and everyone else pays homage and is fiercely loyal to that leader. Dissent is never allowed. Free and creative thinking and expression are not valued when they differ from the leader.As a result, the organization plateaus or declines over time. Or, worse yet, it implodes when the leader has a crisis. Often, it never recovers from that crisis. The end is usually ugly.

Some organizations have depended on the same set of leaders for years without ever developing new leaders to succeed them. Even some organizations that have attempted to develop leaders have done so without a strategic or integrated approach to leadership development.

So, what should we be doing?

Every organization is unique. But there are enough similarities (even between profit and non-profit organizations) to make the following ideas worthy of consideration. So, if you or your organization wants to get serious and build leadership bench strength, here are some tips or suggestions for you:

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Thanksgiving and Football

And an Interesting Leadership Example

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My thoughts today run from family to football and back again. I hope that you are having a great day today and that it is filled with family, food, and fellowship.

Thanksgiving has been known for many traditions. Not the least of which, unfortunately, may be that there is football on Thanksgiving. The Dallas Cowboys have played on Thanksgiving Day since 1966 and that my friend is a tradition.

I grew up and became a Steelers fan in my teen years. They were awesome in the 1970s. I tried to be a Patriots fan in the early 80s. I was a Falcons fan during our time in Atlanta. And when we moved to the DC area, I became a Redskins fan. Those Dallas Cowboys weren’t bad either. Even the most ardent Redskin fan would have to admit that. But one of the best thing to be said of the Cowboys for about 29 years in a row was their coach – Tom Landry.

Leadership is getting someone to do what they don’t want to do to achieve what they want to achieve. – Tom Landry

There have been some amazing coaches in pro football, Vince Lombardi, Bill Walsh, Don Shula, Chuck Knoll, Joe Gibbs, and Tony Dungy are only a few of the great coaches that have walked the chalk on the sidelines on cold Sunday afternoons. But, beyond their ability to motivate and draw up the Xs and Os, consider for a moment one of the key tasks of the football coach as the leader of the team.

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Building Leaders: A Better Model

If creating more leaders is the main goal, why do we spend so much time creating followers?

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Outside of the moral absolutes that we would all commonly accept, there really aren’t a wholly agreed upon set of absolutes for the many pursuits of our lives. And, although I would reject moral relativism, I do accept a certain continuum when it comes to leadership and leadership development.

What does that mean?

That means that there is an acceptable continuum of leadership skills, goals, and objectives. However, my experiences over the last two Sunday afternoons have reinforced within me the objective of creating more leaders and not just more followers. So, toward that end, let’s look at that a little more, shall we?

The kind of leadership that I want to focus on is the kind of leadership that differentiates itself from just good leadership. The differentiator that separates good leaders from great leaders is one that creates other leaders.

While good leaders excel at motivating their followers to do what they are asked, great leaders motivate followers to develop and become leaders themselves. Good leaders only lead followers. Great leaders lead, create, and develop other leaders.

So, if you want to build an organization that endures, you must realize that having good leaders is not enough. You must build an entire culture of leadership throughout your organization that cultivates an environment where great leaders are empowered to create leaders to go out and replicate and even improve upon the foundation laid for them.

What is a Culture of Leadership?

What does it mean to have a leadership culture in your organization? In an organization that has embraced a culture of leadership, all individuals (and not just those that have the words “VP” or “Chief” on their business cards) are expected to think like and to act like leaders. But, what does a leader “think” like and “act” like?

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Leadership Focus: A Reminder

What sitting in a recent training session reminded me about my leadership focus.

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I have said many times, and I repeat again right now. You never know from where your inspiration for writing will come. For me, over the last two Sunday afternoons, it has come from some Discipleship Training that was hosted by a church near where I live.

The training was for them and for their people. But I got a chance to sit in and observe. I consider myself somewhat of an expert when it comes to the topic. So, I was not expecting to really “learn” anything. Boy, was I wrong!

What did I learn? And how was I wrong?

Truthfully, I didn’t really learn anything radically new or different. Instead, I was able to view the topic of leadership development in much the same way that the presenter was able to view the topic of discipleship. 

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Really Important Leaders

Are some leadership roles more important than others?

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The elections are finally over. Some are happy. Some are not. Some are anxious. Some are scared. I have a mixture of all of those emotions. So, I am intentionally choosing to take a look today at one of the foundational leadership roles that exists. That is being a father. 

As fathers, we are the “go-to” guys of the family. There is a lot that is expected of us. We are given enormous responsibility and we are going to ultimately be accountable for the actions that we take as husbands and fathers.

How does that last sentence make you feel? Are you at peace with that statement? Or are you scared witless by the repercussions of it?

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Know Your Followers

How much do you know about your followers?

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One of the factors that were most important for me back in the days when I was a professional speaker was a maxim that I learned from the former actor that taught me all I needed to know about professional public speaking. He taught me that I needed to “know my audience” before I spoke to them. Those were wise words.

What do you know about your followers?

Leaders, how well do you know your followers? Just what do you know about them? Do you even know them at all? These are tough questions. But, they are questions that we need to consider. Knowing them will provide us the insights into their lives and personalities that we need to be a better leader.

How do you get to know your followers?

Let’s assume for a minute that you accept the value of knowing your followers. How can you get to know them better? Consider the following ideas:

Go to them — Go and visit them. If you regularly have 1-on-1’s with your followers, consider having the next one at their office or sitting at their desk. Why? You will see the things that are important to them by what is on display at their desk. Is it a picture of their family? Their motorcycle? Is their favorite sports team obvious? You may not ever know some of these pieces that make up the whole person unless you make the effort to go to their space.

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Why Would Anyone Want YOU To Lead Them?

A Question of Leadership in Terms of "Followship"

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Halloween has just ended and the airwaves are full of Christmas music. Are we just going to bypass Thanksgiving altogether? I certainly hope not. Thanksgiving is a time of reflection for me. It reminds me that the year is nearly over.

At this time of year, many leaders and leadership teams are taking their annual step back to do a deep-dive assessment of their organization’s progress against the goals and objectives of their strategic plans that they established in the early days of 2016. (What? You don’t do that at your organization? Have you ever considered that maybe that is part of what is holding the organization back?)

Take A Look on the Inside

As part of your end-of-year strategic progress review, consider including another area of assessment — one that will require a different kind of evaluation and one that will be much more introspective in nature. Why not take some time to also consider how you personally are progressing as a leader? After all, an organization’s strategic performance is, in large part, a direct reflection of the effectiveness of the person at the top.

If you want to silence a room of pastors, executives or any group of leaders try this small trick. Ask them, “Why would anyone want you to lead them?”

Without fail, the response will most likely be a sudden, stunned hush. All you will hear are knees knocking and crickets chirping.

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Be Respectable and Be Respectful

Leadership Basics

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Are you worthy of respect as a leader? Are you respectful of your followers and those around you? Those are the two topics to consider today as we continue this series of Leadership Basics.

The Respectable Part

Let’s deal with being a person worthy of respect first.

I have often heard the phrase “He just commands respect.” What does that mean? Does it literally mean that I can command you to respect me? How do we gain respect from others? We earn it! So, how do we go about earning respect and being a respectable leader?

How Do You Treat Others? – This very question is dealt with in the second part below where I will discuss being respectful. But, respectFUL leaders are respectABLE leaders.

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