A Shepherd’s Lesson on Leadership – Trust me, ewe don’t want to miss this one.
By Barbara Emener Karasek / September 2017Insights
Sitting in church recently after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma stormed through, we all reflected on the gravity of the destructive paths. The carnage and loss in the widespread aftermath. The highs and lows of rescue efforts. The reality of the long road ahead.
Trying to find the positive message in all of it initially felt incongruent. Could there really be something positive found throughout all of this destruction and chaos? Yes. There was something positive. And it was felt, heard and embodied loud and clear.
The message is that even before tragedy strikes or hurricanes hit, we live in a chaotic world. And in this chaotic world we claim to love living, there actually is a natural order occurring every day. We in the world do rely on one another to live. To thrive. To help us all rise above the chaos and positively impact, improve and benefit the world and others around us. As much as we need from others and the world around us, we, as leaders, have a responsibility to actively influence the community members responsible for being, doing and leading the way. Spoiler alert: there is no such thing as independence anymore. We are all interdependent on one another to literally live our lives.
As leaders, particularly in business where we spend the majority of our time, energy, and resources, it’s imperative to serve as the lead influencer of others the way a shepherd tends to a flock of sheep or the way in which a sea turtle is a fundamental leader within a nearly un-survivable ecosystem.
Let’s examine a shepherd and its flock of sheep.
In truth, though adorable cute, sheep are not very smart. Take a stray sheep. Even if within earshot of its herd, the sheep can become confused, disoriented, scared, and unable to find its way back. Entire herds of sheep are known to have drowned during times of flash flooding even when they could see easily accessible higher ground. Like it or not, without a shepherd (such as a leader), the sheep (such as you and me) are, well, relatively helpless.
The leader, a shepherd in this instance, is one who has several roles in regard to his constituents, such as sheep in this case. In historical times, shepherds would normally work in groups either looking after one large flock, or each bringing their own and merging their responsibilities. To maintain a large flock, the sheep must be able to move from pasture to pasture, requiring the development of an occupation separate from that of the farmer. Though it may seem somewhat of an isolated role, in actuality, the role of the shepherd is fairly complex and integrated, requiring coordination of others, complex logistics, strong communication, ongoing sustained provisions (keeping everyone fed and rested), and much more.
A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects and protects, reflecting the manner in which a leader tends to be with one’s own constituents. No different from a shepherd to its flock, leaders serve in similar roles in relation to their constituents, particularly in business.
There are five key points to reinforce in our roles as leaders in business. And in many cases, these will apply to our roles as leaders in our families and in any other team environment or community in which we serve.
- Leaders need to influence others to walk together on journeys in life so we can all grow and learn. Together, teams and good performance are inseparable.
- Leaders need to influence others to work together in order to “multiply”. Together, team work is the key to yield exponential results; to have many hands to make lighter work; to go further and faster with less resistance.
- Leaders need to influence others to watch out for one another so we can be accountable. Together, teams have an inherent set of checks and balances to hold others and ourselves accountable to the same standards.
- Leaders need to influence others to show sympathy, empathy, and compassion to everyone. Together, teams work best with tender hearts and humble minds
- Leaders need to influence others to become leaders. Together, we can build generation after generation of great leaders and great teams.
Like it or not, we are one. One flock. One team. One community. One world. Sure, it may be a chaotic flock, a chaotic team, a chaotic community or a chaotic world. But we are here and it’s the only one we have so we might as well make the most of it.
As leaders, we have a responsibility, inherent, self-imposed or otherwise, to influence and positively impact those individuals and the world around us. To take care of our flock. Do not underestimate your role as a leader to ensure order to the chaos and positive contributions to your flock – which is your community, your team, your family and your world around you.
Be as good of a leader as the shepherd has served to the wayward sheep in its flock. Be a kind, empathetic, sympathetic and understanding leader to the sheep under your care at all times – they are wayward, yearning for direction and leadership to show them the way. Be as good of a leader to disciple future generations of leaders as the shepherd served to disciple future shepherds.
Our flock depends on us. Our flock needs us. Our flock will always respond to us. As leaders, we must embrace our role as a shepherd to our flock. Let us go forth and lead, and direct, and inspire, and achieve anything to which we focus our minds and hearts.
Just lead the way, my shepherd. Lead the way.
Contributed by Barbara Emener Karasek, Owner, Karasek Enterprises
An accomplished executive with 20+ years of experience leading B2B and B2C marketing, e-commerce, retail, licensing, sports and entertainment marketing, and business development ranging from market leading brands to high growth startups. Having lived in 8 countries and traveled to 15+ countries during her career, she is now a sought-after keynote speaker and panelist to motivate global audiences about sales and marketing alignment, leadership, intrepreneurship and entrepreneurship. As co-owner of Karasek Enterprises with her husband, she is an investor and strategic business growth advisor to a variety of companies and social enterprise organizations, and is working on her first business acquisition. She received a B.A. in Sociology from Furman University, where she attended on a four year, Division I volleyball scholarship and was a standout player and team captain, and earned M.A. in Mass Communication from the University of South Florida, which honored her in 2008 with its Outstanding Alumnus Award. She completed coursework in Strategic Marketing Management at Harvard Business School, Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification, SalesForce leadership training, and is involved with many industry associations. She and her former professional basketball player husband, Tony, stay busy with sports-related hobbies, philanthropic activities, and a never-ending search for the perfect fishing spot. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or connect on LinkedIn.