What Kind of Leader Are You?

Shepherd And FlockDoes anyone remember Theory X motivational management? In 1960, Douglas McGregor, an American social psychologist, proposed his famous X-Y theory of management. Both theories are still referred to in the studies of management and motivation.

Theory X is the “Authoritarian Management” style based on the premise that the average person dislikes work, so must be faced with the threat of punishment so that he/she will work towards corporate objectives. Theory Y is the “Participative Management” style where work comes naturally and the responsible employees will apply self-control and self-direction in the pursuit of objectives, without external control or threat of punishment.

I met many “Theory X” managers in my early career, and one rather scary story comes immediately to mind. A co-worker told me one day that the department Vice President had become upset after overhearing employees laughing. He said to his secretary, “We can’t have laughing here!” What? Yes, this is a true story! No punishments were dealt out, but the fact that the words were spoken is rather unnerving.

Fast forward several years to when I worked for Marriott, where we operated on the principles of its founder, J. Willard Marriott Sr. who said, “Treat your Associates the way you would like to be treated – provide them every avenue to success. Take care of your people and they will take care of your customers.” Happy employees lead to happy customers and happy profits.

This falls more in line with the philosophy laid out in a wonderful little book I was introduced to a few years ago.

In The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People
by Kevin Leman and William Pentak, an entirely different perspective on management is told in short story format. A young MBA student named Ted is mentored by an eccentric and brilliant professor. Jack Neumann, who just happens to own a flock of sheep.

Over the course of seven weeks, Jack assists Ted in coming to understand seven ancient principles of shepherding a flock of sheep, as well as people: Knowing the Condition of Your Flock, Discovering the Shape of Your Sheep, Helping Your Sheep Identify with You, Making Your Pasture a Safe Place, The Staff of Direction, The Rod of Correction and The Heart of the Shepherd.

Each of the book’s seven chapters focuses on a different principle of effective supervision, offering in simple, everyday terms very powerful lessons in leading others. Principles include:

  • Get to know your flock, one person at a time.
  • Your choice of people can make flock management easier or harder.
  • Build trust with your followers by modeling authenticity, integrity, and compassion.
  • Keep your people well-informed.
  • When directing, use persuasion and not coercion. When your people get in trouble, go and get them out.
  • Regularly ask about your people’s progress.

Most of all, have a heart for your people. Quite a change from the old school, right?

As a result of reading The Way of the Shepherd, the following strategies jump out as immediate steps you can take to improve your leadership style:

  • Get out of the office and interact with the people on your team.
  • Get to know what is important to them as people, not just workers.
  • Remember that it is the people who get all the work done. They are your greatest asset.
  • Treat each person as an individual, not just a member of the team.

What kind of leader are you? Maybe you should take a look at shepherding. You can be a shepherd leader wherever you are, at work, in any civic or volunteer organization, at a parent/teacher association or at your place of worship. The simple lessons taught by Leman and Pentak are things we rarely think about. If you care about the people you lead, this short but insightful book is a must read. Get a copy of The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People
Create a green pasture in your workplace or organization today.


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