Leading Like the Shepherd
David Freund, Chief Leadership Officer
Perhaps one of the most familiar Psalms is Psalm 23. It is often found in cards or read at funerals. The Psalm is made up of six short verses but is packed with 10 leadership insights that I believe can drive a culture within our organizations that will help us attract and keep the best and brightest.
The Psalm begins by stating that the Shepherd provides the necessities. As leaders, we must make sure that our teams are resourced. That they have everything that they need to succeed in their jobs. If you look at what the Hebrew words mean, it actually says that the Shepherd feeds, guides, and shields, so that we shall not lack. When a leader cares that deeply about their team, the team knows and feels that they are valued. In turn, that encourages them to give everything they have back to the leader. Remember, people buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.
In verse two, we see that there are times when the Shepherd makes their team members lie down in green pastures and times when they are led to a place near still waters. Green pastures offer a place where nourishment can be found. Still waters provide a place of quiet where the team can refocus. Rest, quiet, and nourishment are critical for creative thought and growth, yet far too often, we are so driven by our mission and vision that we fail to see our team is simply worn out and tired. The best leaders insist that their team members take a vacation. They insist that their team members get the training needed to meet the challenges of tomorrow. They know each team member so well that they can sense what is needed and when.
Verse four is quite interesting; we see that the Shepherd protects their team. Even when our teams are walking in the “valley of the shadow of death,” they aren’t afraid. They know that the Shepherd is protecting them. Great leaders know how to protect their teams from whatever may be lurking in the shadows, and the team realizes this and feels safe. Safe to apply the energy of fear into forward-thinking and appropriate risk-taking.
Correction is also a key to great leadership. The Shepherd knows when correction is needed. They have carefully laid out clear expectations for each team member. They know that unspoken expectations are planned disappointments. When correction is necessary, it is given, but always with unconditional love. You read that correctly. As Dave Ramsey writes in EntreLeadership, “When you hire a person, you need to choose to love them.” When you read Psalm 23, you can’t help but see that the Shepherd loves the team they are entrusted with. As leaders, we are never “in charge” of anyone. We are “given charge” of a team, and that is a great privilege.
If you would like to hear more about these points, as well as my other takeaways from this well-known Psalm, please join Marisa Norcross and me for Episode 214 of The Next Page podcast.