So a few days ago, I heard Mr Lim Siong Guan speak about leadership. I knew who he was, and had heard someone I respect say that he was an inspiration, so I was impressed with the man even before this. After hearing him speak, I came away a little disappointed with the quality of the presentation – the slides were obviously ill-prepared – but even more impressed with the man.
Of many interesting things he mentioned, one was the idea that a leader can be compared to a shepherd (the way shepherds are in the Middle East, not those in Australia and New Zealand, who I understand rely a lot more on sheepdogs).
A shepherd has a crooked staff. This is so that while he directs his flock across the meadows and fields to graze, if a sheep should fall into a ditch, he can help it up. A leader likewise supports his charges when they have difficulties.
A shepherd wields a strong stick. This is not to cajole or threaten his flock to go where he wants them to go, but to drive away predators that may endanger his flock. A leader likewise protects his charges.
Sometimes you will see a shepherd lugging a lame sheep, usually a lamb, around his shoulders. There are always a few sheep in a flock that persist in going in different, more dangerous directions, possibly into ravines or cliff edges. So, to prevent the rest of his flock from coming to harm, the shepherd may break the disobedient sheep’s leg. But since it then cannot walk, the shepherd would have to carry the sheep around his shoulders and nurse it back to health. A leader likewise has a responsibility to his charges to prevent unproductive or detrimental elements from affecting the team’s work.
I think that’s interesting – the concept of leaders as shepherds.