|The Leadership Difference|
A Sheepherder vs. A Shepherd
While driving on the I-15 about an hour north of Salt Lake City, I saw a man riding
a horse driving a couple hundred sheep. He was sitting up high in the back of the herd with his three or four dogs nipping at the heels of any stragglers and sheep who started going a bit too wide.
His sheep looked no worse for the wear, and he certainly wasn't abusive to them, but I could sense their anxiety, frustration and desire for it to be over; to get to wherever they were headed. The herder looked as though he was performing more of a chore than taking any sort of pleasure in moving these sheep to where they needed to go, even if it was for their own benefit, as well as his.
Contrast that with the shepherd that my grandfather was. When I was just a teenager, I witnessed my grandfather walk amongst his livestock on foot. He didn't sit on his 'high horse' but was down at their level. He had a single dog whose only real job was to keep the wolves and coyotes at bay, never to nip at the sheep.
He spoke to his animals like friends, or even loved ones.
They responded to his voice and were calm, even when the situation was tough, like during a storm or being herded into shoots for medicine. He also walked in front of them, leading them with confidence.
I followed this same pattern in the Marines. Sure, in the middle of a firefight or a particularly intense training session, we yell and get very physical. But the rest of the time, I led as a shepherd. I always went first. I always took the time to explain myself when I was able, either before or after the training or mission.
I strove to show empathy to my Marines - and it worked. I was promoted faster than any other Marine since Korea. It was the success of my Marines that I ultimately viewed as the true measure of my success.
Contrast this with many supervisors and managers today. Frequently they use positions of power or authority (high horse) to send others (riding from behind and inspiring little to no confidence in their people) to
accomplish a task. (doing chores instead of inspiring the heart of another human being) Effective leaders care for their people and can be direct when necessary, but always out of a desire to see their people and their organization succeed.