By F. Scott Addis, CPCU, CRA, CBWA, TRA
LEADERSHIP: THE WAY OF THE SHEPHERD
Building, motivating and protecting your team
How would you describe your leadership style? What characteristics make you an effective leader? Why are people willing to follow you?
Leadership is a term that is frequently used in our society. It takes on different meanings depending on the context in which the term is used. Here are some attributes that are used to describe effective leaders:
- Authentic and self-aware
- Strategic and tactical planner
- Convincing and persuasive communication style
- Conflict manager and gifted negotiator
- Clear and compelling vision
- Honest with a high level of integrity
- Servanthood mentality
- Effective delegator
- Exceptional listening skills
- Creative and innovative
Are great leaders born or made? What do you think? Although evidence shows that God-given talents, such as process thinking, assertiveness, and high intelligence, give a leader a natural advantage, a leader also must possess high emotional intelligence—the ability to monitor one’s own and others’ emotions—to create followers. Unlike IQ, emotional intelligence can be developed and harnessed.
Relentlessly communicate your values and sense of mission. Set high standards of performance.
The job of leading a person or team of people is complex. You may have all the “raw materials”: inborn characteristics that may predispose you to be a leader. You will be wise, however, to embark on a leadership plan that involves self-assessment and self-development. Why? Great leaders must be developed!
The Way of the Shepherd
My favorite book about leadership is The Way of the Shepherd by Kevin Leman and William Pentak. This inspirational and thought-provoking story is centered on a young, inexperienced reporter who lands the interview of a lifetime with the most respected CEO in America. During the interview, the CEO shares the secrets he learned long ago from his mentor—an eccentric but brilliant professor who taught him seven management principles that, while ancient in origin, are valuable in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world.
The principles in this unforgettable book serve as a leadership plan:
- Know the condition of your flock
- Discover the shape of your sheep
- Help your sheep identify with you
- Make your pasture a safe place
- The staff of direction
- The rod of correction
- The heart of the shepherd
Principle #1—Know the condition of your flock. You can’t manage what you don’t know. Far too many well-intentioned leaders focus on projects and deadlines and not on their people. Great leaders know that it is their people who get the job done and who give the organization a competitive advantage. For that reason, the shepherd begins each day by checking the condition of his or her flock.
The people who report to you may be part of the same flock, but they desperately want to be treated as individuals. Your team’s performance will improve significantly as you take the time to discover each person’s goals, passions, and struggles. As a leader, you should know what motivates each member of your flock when he or she walks through the door in the morning.
Principle #2—Discover the shape of your sheep. A gifted shepherd knows the shape of his or her sheep so as to make sure that they are in the right fold. Let’s learn the meaning of each letter of SHAPE:
S—Strengths: As the leader, you need to make sure each person has the skills needed to get the job done.
H—Heart: You must confirm that each person’s heart is in his or her job. Passion leads to purpose.
A—Attitude: Given a choice between skill and attitude, the gifted leader always takes attitude. Positivity is contagious and creates a team environment.
P—Personality: People are wired differently. Some are introverts while others are extroverts. Place your people in positions that reflect their natural strengths and their unique personalities.
E—Experience: Each team member is a product of his or her life experiences. The best leaders learn about each person’s experiences so as to situate this person appropriately on the team.
Principle #3—Help your sheep identify with you. Your flock needs to understand and appreciate the authentic you. For this reason, great leaders expose their vulnerable side. You will build trust and a loyal following by letting your guard down so your team can see qualities such as empathy, compassion, and your sense of the meaning of life.
If you have purpose and passion for a cause, let your people know about it. Relentlessly communicate your values and sense of mission. Set high standards of performance. Great leaders come to learn that leadership is not just professional; it’s also personal.
Principle #4—Make your pasture a safe place. When sheep are grazing in the pasture, they know when they are at risk. When the shepherd’s flock is uncertain or fearful, he or she must create a sense of calm. The same goes for the business setting. As a leader, you have the responsibility to make your pasture a safe place. In The Way of the Shepherd, authors Leman and Pentak offer these strategies:
- Keep your people well informed
- Infuse every position with importance
- Cull chronic instigators from the flock
- Regularly rotate your sheep to fresh pasture
- Reassure your sheep by being visible and present
- Don’t give problems time to fester
Principle #5—The staff of direction. In The Way of the Shepherd, the CEO pulls out a stick that is over five feet long and has a large curve on one side that resembles a question mark. “Do you know what this is?” the CEO asks the youthful reporter. “It looks like a walking stick,” the reporter responds. “No, this is a shepherd’s staff,” the CEO says. The staff and rod—a shorter stick—are essential tools for the shepherd to lead the flock out of the fold each morning to find fresh pasture.
In the business setting, the members of some teams put their heads down to do their work and do not look up again until the day is over. As a shepherd, you must keep your eye on the horizon to see where the grass is greener. As a leader, it is imperative that you know where you are going, get out in front, and keep your flock on the move.
As you provide direction, use persuasion rather than coercion. Offer suggestions and ideas. Do not dictate or demand. Rather, advocate and recommend. Establish boundaries. Let your flock know where the fence line is, and do not micromanage.
Occasionally a member of your team will wander outside the boundaries, straying from the flock. It is your responsibility to use your staff of direction to rescue this person and bring him or her back to the flock safe and sound. Constantly encourage your flock to move to greener pastures.
Principle #6—The rod of correction. In addition to the staff, the shepherd carries a shorter stick—a rod. While the staff represents your responsibility to direct people, the rod represents your responsibility to correct them. This is the aspect of leadership where leaders, particularly new ones, most commonly stumble. The shepherd uses the rod in three ways:
Protection from predators like coyotes, wild dogs, wolves, and mountain lions.
Correction. It is the shepherd’s responsibility to use discipline as a teaching opportunity. Like sheep, people can be stubborn and rebellious. For that reason, heavy doses of persuasion may be required. In the business setting, approach discipline as an instructional exercise instead of punishment. By the way, if you have protected your people, they will be much more inclined to listen to you when you correct them.
Inspection. Regularly inquire about the progress of your flock. And remember that it is your responsibility to develop them.
Principle #7—The heart of the shepherd. What makes a great shepherd isn’t the staff or the rod; it is the heart. What distinguishes a gifted leader from a mediocre one is that the great leader has the heart for his or her people. Your ultimate test of leadership isn’t setting the direction for your flock. Rather, it is getting your flock where you want it to go. If you want your people to go above and beyond, they must see your passion, your heart.
If it’s greatness that you want, it’s greatness that you must give.
Scott Addis is chief executive officer of Beyond Insurance, a consulting firm that offers leadership training, cultural transformation, and talent and tactical development for enlightened professionals who are looking to take their organization to the next level. Since 2007, the proven and repeatable processes of Beyond Insurance have transformed agencies as measured by enhanced organic growth, productivity, profitability, and value in the marketplace. To learn more, contact Scott at email@example.com.