Shepherd or Sheepdog?

Shepherds and sheepdogs are similar in that both are responsible for taking care of the sheep and moving them in a particular direction.  They protect the sheep from danger and round up strays, but their approaches are totally different.

The sheepdog runs barking into the herd to get them going.  Its approach is effective at creating movement, but it tends to cause them to head off in all different directions.  The dog then has to run frantically around the herd to get them moving together.  On the other hand, the shepherd simply leads, and the sheep follow.  The sheepdog motivates through fear, the shepherd through trust.

In this metaphor, you can see two different approaches to managing people: push and pull.  The sheepdog pushes the herd much like an ineffective manager pushes his/her people.  Cajoling, warning and threatening, the sheepdog manager tries to get his people moving.  Unfortunately, he creates so much fear, confusion and discord that everyone is looking to his own interests.  The ineffective manager then has to round up the stragglers and try to cajole, warn and threaten them to start marching toward the group goal.  By barking threats, he eventually gets them to their destination.

The shepherd pulls the herd much like an effective manager pulls his/her people.  She doesn’t need to cajole, warn or threaten.  Her values, dedication and interpersonal skills draw people to follow her.  She shows her people how achieving the organization’s goals will help them achieve their own goals.  She points them toward the horizon and tells them why it’s worth achieving.  She creates trust that she has her peoples’ best interests at heart.

By modeling the behaviors he wants to see from the front, the shepherd leader inspires others to follow.  A shepherd leader doesn’t need a lot of noise and frenetic activity to get the job done.


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Filed under leadership, management

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