Leading with a Shepherd’s Heart
If you have not had a position of leadership yet, no worries…you will!
Are you an older sibling? Babysitter? Coach? Parent? Group leader?
How would you describe your leadership style?
There are many styles of leadership, and I have to say I have read a lot of leadership books and tried quite a few leadership styles over 32 years in public education, but the one that I found the most successful was that of shepherding.
Let’s examine the shepherding leadership style by looking at:
- Qualities of a shepherd-like leader
- Examples from my classroom
- The pay-off
Here is just a partial list of qualities I think of when I think of a leader that shepherds his flock:
- cares about each of his flock individually, as well as what is good for the group
- has their back against outside attacks, protective, and will stand up for what is right, gaining the trust of his flock
- wants each member to grow to be successful and the best they can be
- is gentle with constructive criticism, but fair when discipline is needed
- sets the environment so that it is a safe climate physically and emotionally
- guides and steers the flock toward the goal that has been described in detail so that it is truly everyone’s goal
In my classroom:
- I took an
- interest in each student individually by making effort to learn their future goals, outside activities, and passions. This took time, but once they knew I cared about them as a person and wanted to support them, I had a solid relationship that made our time together better.
- I had their backs. They trusted mebecause they knew they could tell me if someone was bullying them or even if they were having a personality conflict with another student or teacher, I would mediate objectively. They knew if they were in the wrong, however, I was going to help them see that.
- I truly wanted each student to succeed in school and with their relationships. I would hold a student after class that I suspected was struggling, and we would talk about it. One on one conversations expressing concern was valuable.
- I not only used the formula for constructive criticism, but I taught it to every class so they could utilize it in their personal lives. I also did not put up with disrespectful or disruptive behavior because that is a fast way to lose the respect of your flock.
- I made our classroom a safe place to express themselves by setting the expectations early with a lot of reminders when needed.
- They knew my objective every lesson was to improve their life in some way.
I didn’t give “busy work” and explained the WHY we were doing what we were doing, and how it would benefit them. I tied the day’s goal to their personal goals whenever possible.
The Payoff: Leading is not always easy, but I found if you approach it with the heart of a shepherd, you will find your flock trusts your leadership, and that is invaluable. Shepherding was always a win/win for both of us.
You will not always have the same members in your flock, but chances are they will learn more from you, and become valuable relationships later even after they have left flock.
My most valuable reward from teaching has been that many of my flock have later become dear friends that I am still in regular contact with, even after 30 years! That would not have happened without leading with the heart of a shepherd.
How will you lead those entrusted in your care for now on?
For more on leading with a shepherd’s heart: