8 Qualities of Shepherd-Leaders

John B. MacDonald /Tuesday, April 19, 2022

 

Robert Greenleaf’s concept of servant-leadership has gained wide acceptance. Yet, in a recent conversation, the discussion turned to its limitations.

Can we improve on servant-leadership?

I propose we can by becoming shepherd-leaders. 

David Bennett in Metaphors of Ministry points out that, in the Bible, “the shepherd image is one of the few that is applied exclusively to leaders.” 

No fewer than eight times in the Old Testament, God is portrayed as the shepherd of his people. In the Gospels, Jesus Christ is described as the good shepherd. There can be no better teachers or models of leadership. 

Here are eight qualities of a shepherd-leader we can learn from the good shepherd in John 10:1-18

1. Boundaries. As I’ve written elsewhere, every relationship is defined and preserved by boundaries. Stepping over those boundaries damages or destroys the relationship.

A true leader will establish and maintain boundaries. For the shepherd, there is a sheep pen within which only his sheep may gather (10:1-2).

For leaders in every area of life, there are appropriate ethical, moral, and other boundaries that leaders need to establish and maintain for the benefit of themselves and those they lead.

2. Example. The shepherd “goes on ahead of [the sheep], and his sheep follow him” (10:3-4). 

Any true leader will lead by example. It is not a case of “do as I say, not as I do.” True leaders must be worthy models to follow. 

3. Trustworthy. Sheep follow the good shepherd “because they know his voice” (10:4). This is learned over time from the consistent and caring treatment of the sheep by the shepherd.

A leader needs to cultivate a deep sense of trust within those he or she leads. This is a quality in which one’s ‘voice’ evokes the character and care of a shepherd-leader. 

4. Provision. A shepherd provides good pasture (10:9). In Psalm 23, a ‘sheep’ says of the Shepherd: 

  • I shall not be in want.
  • He makes me lie down in green pastures.
  • He leads me beside quiet waters.
  • He restores my soul.

True leaders provide for the genuine needs of those they lead.

In addition, shepherd-leaders neither grind down their employees in unhealthy environments at less than livable wages nor dismiss them without caring about what happens to them. When it comes to a leader’s choices, a person is more important than a profit. 

A leader acts in ways that give life to those he or she leads (10:10). 

5. Sacrificial. Five times Jesus speaks about laying down his life for the sheep (10:11, 15, 17-18). The good shepherd chooses personal sacrifice for the welfare of his sheep. 

The same is true of shepherd-leaders. They willingly experience personal sacrifice for the benefit of those they lead. It’s not about the leader; it’s about those being led. 

6. Invested. The shepherd has a personal stake in the well-being of the sheep. A hired hand will abandon them when the going gets tough or dangerous—for him, it’s only a job. The shepherd is invested in the sheep and sticks with them through thick and thin (10:12). 

So it is with true leaders. They are personally invested in those they lead. 

7. Relational. “I know my sheep and my sheep know me” (10:14). 

The true leader takes the time and energy to build solid and genuine relationships with those he or she leads. Those led are not viewed as mere employees, servants, or objects; each is known and treated as an “image of God.” 

8. Visionary. Jesus had a vision of the future and lived for the fulfillment of that vision. In this case, it was increasing the size of his flock—those who would become his genuine followers (10:16). 

True leaders have a clear, God-honoring vision for the future and live toward it.

These are a few qualities we can learn from the good shepherd to become better leaders.

So, with due respect to Greenleaf, I propose we press beyond being servant-leaders to becoming shepherd-leaders.


*This article first appeared on the Living Theology website and has been republished with permission. 


Dr. John B. MacDonald has served for decades as a lawyer and pastor-teacher. He is an associate with Outreach Canada and focuses on equipping and encouraging others to become more like Jesus Christ and to live all of life with God-honoring competence and joy.



print


Return
Behind the Scenes (at MORE Network)
 A behind the scenes look at God's faithfulness in the MORE Network and an invitation to pray with us!
Read more...
From Sea to Sea: A Mari usque ad Mare
As we approach Canada Day, this blog from Simply Mobilizing Canada gives an honest look at how colonialism impacted the 'sea-to-sea' dream of Canada. And a hopeful outlook on how we might yet see his 'dominion from sea ...
Read more...
A Leader’s Personal Litmus Test
A ‘litmus test’ does not change the leader; it reveals the leader’s character. Here are three litmus tests a true leader can learn from Jesus. 
Read more...
Serving Leaders: Replacing Ourselves
How do we serve leaders? By thinking about how to replace them! Okay, maybe some of you will think this is a bad idea...
Read more...
Scripture Earth: Sharing the Gospel in Diverse Languages
The website, ScriptureEarth.org, containing one of the largest repositories of Bible resources available, is a hidden jewel in the toolbox for diaspora ministry in Canada!
Read more...
Serving Leaders Globally
Communication and collaboration in intercultural environments are complex at the best of times, but the pandemic created new levels of complexity for our global alliance. However, through creative intentionality and sim...
Read more...
OC Director's Blog: June 2022
June 2022 Update from Outreach Canada's Executive Director, Dr. Craig Kraft. 
Read more...
Loving a Mosque Community Together
Join us for this webinar where Lorna Johnston will share how you can engage in prayers of love and compassion for those who call your neighbourhood mosque their home.
Read more...
Leaders Find Greater Inspiration in Burundi
I continue to be inspired by the many committed Burundian leaders who pour out their lives in serving in such a challenging environment. God is at work through the church in such practical and inspirational ways, and we...
Read more...
Changing the Oil on your Cross-Cultural Worker
How do we care for our Cross-Cultural Ministry Workers? Using car maintenance as an analogy, Mark unpacks three ways the church can support & care for Cross-Cultural Ministry Workers.  
Read more...
 

 

2 - 7201 72 Street Delta BC V4G 1M5