Sheepdog or Shepherd?


Good leadership often means that we are willing to lead by doing instead of delegating

When I visited New Zealand a few years ago, I saw a demonstration of the well-trained working sheepdogs who daily move the sheep from place to place there. Incredibly quick and extremely tenacious, the dogs reminded me of some of the bosses I’ve had and, unfortunately, of some of my own leadership early on. I thought I was leading, but I was simply barking, manipulating, scaring and irritating those under my care.

Dallas Willard, in his book Hearing God, says “the sheepdog forcibly maneuvers the sheep, whereas the biblical shepherd simply calls as he calmly walks ahead of the sheep”. I really like that picture. Lead by doing. Influence over authority. Calling to your followers….your family, “come with me.”  “Do what I do, and we’ll be fine.”

Is that how you’re leading your wife? Your kids? Your family? Your company?

Are you going first, living and demonstrating humility, consistency, discipline, and compassion? Are you earning the moral authority to “call as you calmly walk ahead” and know that you’ll be followed…because you’ve earned the right to lead?

Our leadership isn’t being cut down by axes and chainsaws….it’s dying through thousands of paper cuts. Small lies, inconsistencies and compromises, and hard-heartedness that we excuse “because we’re so busy”. The reality is it’s easier to be a sheepdog leader, bark loud and continually wear ourselves out running around the “herd”, confusing activity with accomplishment.

Are you willing to lead by “doing the work of the Gospel”? Not delegating it, but doing it? Are you willing to put on the shoes of the Gospel of peace with your wife and kids? To take on the responsibility for the spiritual growth and development of another man as his mentor? To seek out “the least of these” in your community and help meet their needs?

When you do, you’ll look behind you and find willing followers drawing their strength and confidence from walking in the steps of their shepherd.


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