It’s a small business parable book, but a powerful one. I have worked through the seven ancient secrets found in the book “The Way of the Shepherd” with some of my executive leaders as well as leaders from other groups.
The publisher notes are as follows:
Find inspiration and a fresh perspective on the art of leadership in this account of a cub reporter who lands the interview of a lifetime and walks away with the keys to exceptional leadership. When the reporter meets with the most respected CEO in America, the businessman shares the seven secrets he learned long ago from his mentor—an eccentric but brilliant professor who taught him proven management principles that, while ancient in origin, are applicable in today’s fast-paced, high-tech world. The Way of the Shepherd is a compact, heart-warming story dotted with humor. It will teach you how to lead the people close to you so they will view their work as a calling rather than merely a job, a place to belong rather than a place to work. It shows leaders how to infuse work with meaning and how to engage, energize, and ignite their workforce and gives employees a better understanding of what makes for a quality work experience. It is a powerful metaphor for leaders that reaches back 5,000 years. It is . . . The Way of the Shepherd.
Monty: The principles are solid, and speak powerfully. While they may seem simple, it is often the simple laws of leadership that we forget or overlook, so a fresh nudge reminding us of leadership 101 is always a good thing. Here are the 7 Ancient Secrets:
1. Know the Condition of Your Flock
* Follow the status of your people as well as the status of the work.
* Get to know your flock, one sheep at a time.
* Engage your people on a regular basis.
* Keep your eyes and ears open, question and follow through.
Monty: What I love about principle is that it reminds us the value of people in an organization or an organism. Too often, people become a means to an end, rather than actual human-beings who are on this journey with you. When we don’t know the condition of our “flock” our leadership will hit a lid. That lid can be removed as we purposefully invest in the people we work with and lead. To invest in relationships, to know what is going on in their world, and to know how they are doing with their work creates a positive working relationship. The benefit here is that by doing this, your leadership will be less crunchy-work and more productive.
2. Discover the Shape of You Sheep
* Your choice of sheep can make flock management easier or harder.
* Start with healthy sheep, or you’ll inherit someone else’s problems.
* Know the SHAPE of your sheep to make sure they are in the right fold.
S – Strengths: place people in their area of strength not weakness
H – Heart: place people in areas that they are passionate about
A – Attitude: a bad attitude will hurt your team, a positive attitude is crucial
P – Personality: place people in positions that align with the temperament
E – Experiences: place people in areas where they have had experiences
Monty: This is a powerful principle. If you are starting a new team please don’t miss the importance revealed in this chapter. Selecting the right people based off of their SHAPE will make you or break you. I have often chosen well, and sometimes not so well. This is one lesson I wish I had learned earlier in life! For those who look at this and say, “Well, that’s great for starting something new, but I am stuck with a team I didn’t choose!”, let me say that you need to learn this for future hires, and for re-tooling and training your current team in order to become more productive. If you are unable to replace some team members, you will need to look at developing them. This will build your relationship and can result in a transformed team.
3. Help Your Sheep Identify With You
* Build trust with your followers by modeling authenticity, integrity, and compassion.
* Set high standards of performance.
* Relentlessly communicate your values and sense of mission.
* Define the cause for your people and tell them where they fit in.
* Remember that great leadership isn’t just professional; it’s personal.
Monty: A great leader does more than learn the SHAPE of his team and discover their individual condition…they enter into a synergistic relationship where they are also becoming known to those they lead. Being open, honest and practicing continual communication will help your team know who you are, your passion, goals, and that they matter in the over-all mission. People will follow a leader like this not just because they are paid to, but because they want to.
4. Make Your Pasture a Safe Place
* Keep your people well informed.
* Infuse every position with importance.
* Cull chronic instigators from the flock.
* Regularly rotate the sheep to fresh pastures.
* Reassure the sheep by staying visible.
* Don’t give problems time to fester.
Monty: A great leader proactively makes sure the “pasture” is safe. Predators that make it unsafe for everyone need to be removed…communication needs to be flowing as change is the norm, and change creates fear. The principle of management by walking around is powerful. A leader who practices the art of being seen tends to have a higher performing team than one who isolates and doesn’t communicate. Also key in this chapter is the need to deal quickly and decisively with negative problems that arise whether it is internal or external. When the team sees the leader dealing with these issues, whether they be personnel or circumstance…a sense of safety is secured and productivity increases.
5. The Staff of Direction
* Know where you’re going, get out in front, and keep your flock on the move.
* When directing, use persuasion rather than coercion.
* Give your people freedom of movement, but make sure they know where the
fence line is. Don’t confuse boundaries with bridles!
*When your people get in trouble, go and get them out!
* Remind your people that failure isn’t fatal.
Monty: A great leader takes responsibility for his team. The staff of direction reminds me that I need to be involved, guiding, helping and modeling. The staff of direction is used to help keep team members from making bad decisions as well as rescuing some who are teetering on the cliff’s edge. An engaged leader knows that a healthy team helps the entire organism, so time and energy need to be invested in the people you lead.
6. The Rod of Correction
* Protect: Stand in the gap and fight for your sheep.
* Correct: Approach discipline as a teaching opportunity.
*Inspect: Regularly inquire about your people’s progress.
Monty: While these are pretty self-explanatory, they are also vital. A leader who is only a rah-rah cheerleader and doesn’t enter into the hard side of correction is not a healthy leader. How you correct is the key. If you have established a relationship and move towards bettering the person, while not easy, the authentic nature of the conversation can lead to a better relationship and increased productivity. The phrase “caring enough to confront” comes to mind.
7. The Heart of the Shepherd
* Great leadership is a lifestyle, not a technique.
* Every day you have to decide who’s going to pay for your leadership-you or your people.
* Most of all, have a heart for your sheep.
Monty: The people you lead don’t get to decide how you will invest in growing in your leadership….only you can choose to do that. A leader that chooses to ignore continual growth make the people around him pay the price. As we all grow in our leadership capacity, it is hard work, and it is a lifelong process. When we choose the path of growth, it positively affects all that we are connected to. This reminds me that the end game is not merely the completion of tasks, but the transformation of who I am and of those around me as we work towards the mission God created us to accomplish.