Is shepherd leadership what we are looking for?
When I first thought up the idea of The Tribe, I had a very clear idea of what I wanted my role to be within this community. I knew that I had to reluctantly assume the position of leader because all businesses need a leader and as I was the only person working in this business it had to be me.
A Traditional Business Leadership Model
However, I wasn’t at all interested in the traditional top-down leadership style which has its roots in the Industrial Revolution. This style of leadership is known as directive leadership or command-and-control leadership and is inherently hierarchical. Control is achieved through coercion and dominance. Obviously, this is wholly inappropriate for a coworking community. In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that this approach is no longer appreciated in business in general.
You need power, only when you want to do something harmful; otherwise love is enough to get everything done.Charlie Chaplin
I didn’t want a business based on the values of control and self-interest where the primary goal is power and profit. I wanted to create a business based on the values of sharing, collaboration and service. I wanted a business that had meaning and purpose and that prioritises the well-being of the community above all else.
In trying to avoid The Tribe becoming a hierarchy with me at the top, I have somewhat neglected my full potential as leader, and this is something that I am looking to address in 2024.
I have been asked many times to be a coach or mentor for women in our community who need a helping hand with business branding and marketing support. But the words coach and mentor just didn’t feel right to me. So I started to look for a different word that I could use that felt more in alignment with my values. Words like cheerleader, guide, explorer, conductor, skipper and philosopher all came up in my Google search. But none of them were the right fit either.
Then I happened upon the word “shepherd”. A shepherd “is a person who protects, guides or watches over a person or group of people”. This felt like a much better match and given that it is also my name, didn’t feel icky at all!! A bit of further Googling revealed the concept of shepherd leadership.
What is Shepherd Leadership?
Shepherd leadership is an extension of servant leadership which is where a leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. A servant leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.
The Leader as a Role Model
Shepherd leadership is similar to this but the difference is that shepherd leadership places the leader squarely at the front ready to serve as a role model.
Blaine McCormick and David Davenport who wrote the book on shepherd leadership, believe that this type of leadership is whole-person leadership. It is a specific way of thinking, doing and being.
Creating an Environment for Growth
A shepherd leader’s job is to think ahead and empower their community to see more and learn more than would be possible on their own. They create an environment that promotes and facilitates more growth and progress. They spend time with their community, proactively listening to them, and assessing and meeting their needs. And they get out in the field to model and guide.
It takes real care and commitment to be a shepherd leader. You need to provide emotional support as well as create a supportive learning environment. You need to be gentle, but also tough and resilient.
Driven by the Mission to Create Positive Change
What I most love about shepherd leadership is how it is all about advancement and unleashing our capacity through positive and effective change. It’s about fulfilling the mission as opposed to chasing revenue and profit. It’s about empowering others to achieve and perform well, motivated by their passion. It’s about creating a hopeful, positive and realistic vision for the future.
Unleashing the Gifts of the Community
A shepherd leader does not push from behind but leads from the front with patience, insight, awareness and care. They realise that each member of the community contributes something unique and valuable. They ensure that each person’s gift can be used for the benefit of the community. They watch out for moments of failure and create opportunities for second chances where community members can shine.
Encourage Good Decisions
Shepherd leaders help their community make good choices by understanding and framing the options before them. They know that the valleys can be dark and lonely, but they encourage others to see themselves in a new light. They walk alongside their community to promote confidence with encouragement, patient teaching and support.
Above all shepherd leadership is about being a caring and compassionate leader who has the best interests of the community at heart. Since the day I decided to open The Tribe, I have been striving to be the best shepherd leader that I could be, even though I had no idea that shepherd leadership was a thing.
So is shepherd leadership a new paradigm for business in 2024? I sincerely hope so. It will certainly continue to be integral to how I choose to lead The Tribe. In fact, from now on you can just call me The Business Sheppard.
If you need a kind and compassionate guide in 2024, someone who cares deeply about your motivations and passion and who wants to help you make good decisions and help you create an environment in which you can succeed, maybe you need The Business Sheppard.
Find out more about my Business Sheppard service and how to work with me, click the button below.
Stacey Sheppard is the founder of The Tribe, a small community-driven coworking space in Totnes that caters to creative, growth-oriented female entrepreneurs by providing an inspiring working environment designed to foster collaboration, connection and community.