Leading the One

tensionA leader once asked the question: “Are you a rancher or a shepherd?” Does your leadership prioritise or focus on the one or are you more typically about the big picture processes, operations and needs of many from an organisational perspective? The answer is surely not in being only about either, but in being skilled at both.

Another leadership expert, Jim Collins, has popularised “the genius of the ‘and’”, which is the idea that a balance of extremes often needs us to manage tensions, rather than resolve them. This often needs us to hold competing extremes in a shifting balance that adapts to current needs. Collins elsewhere shows that the most effective leaders in organisations maintain this balance so as to always have enough humility to consider the needs of individuals who remain the lifeblood of any organisation.

So, therefore, a rancher never ceases to be a shepherd! He will leave the ninety-nine to go after the one. And when someone else is taking responsibility for the one, he still cares. His heart breaks for the hurts of the one and he is motivated for the betterment of the one. Delegation is not abdication.

I think that many who are great shepherds struggle to adapt to the rancher needs of growth. This actually shows a lack of shepherding when new sheep cannot be adequately catered for. The result is a stifling of growth in individuals as well as the organisation. But there are many ranchers who also fail to shepherd; they almost demonstrate a loss of perspective in failing to appreciate the fact that the whole ranch is about the sheep and not about growth, position or money.

The ability to manage this leadership tension (one of many) is a quantifiable mark of greatness. Perhaps we can all aspire to be a little more organised and procedural for the greater good, but never at the expense of the one!




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