The Shepherd Leader
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.”
Psalm 23 could be one of the greatest chapters that the Scriptures give us on leadership. Every leader should be like a shepherd who cares for those they lead. A leader who doesn’t care for those they lead like a shepherd cares for his sheep is merely a hireling. David, the great king and leader, defined how the LORD led him like a shepherd leads the flock. Several characteristics are shown in this psalm that defines shepherd leadership. If you want to be a good leader, or if you want to be a leader like God, you will follow the LORD’s example and lead with shepherd leadership. Let me share with you the five characteristics of shepherd leadership.
First, shepherd leadership leads for what is best for the sheep. The verse above says, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Let me point out that the sheep trust the shepherd’s leadership to provide. You will help your leader tremendously if you stop questioning everything they ask you to do and just follow. I’m very cognizant of the fact that you shouldn’t be a blind follower, but I am very aware that a leader can’t lead you if you question every decision they make. A shepherd leader will do what is best for the sheep even when the sheep don’t want to do it or when they don’t understand the “why” of the decision. The shepherd leader will lead so that the follower will not want. It is up to the follower to follow to the places where they will not want.
Second, shepherd leadership makes the sheep do things. Verse 2 says, “He maketh me to lie down…” Leadership at times has to be demanding. Strong and caring leadership doesn’t lead with questions, but they lead with absolutes. Yes, a shepherd leader will be demanding at times, but that doesn’t make them a bad leader.
Third, shepherd leadership leads from the front. Verse 2 continues to say, “…he leadeth me beside the still waters.” The leader can’t lead “beside the still waters” if the leader isn’t present. You cannot lead from an office; you lead by example. You can’t be a good leader if all you want to do is bark orders. Leaders are participators in the actions they are leading others to do. The best leader doesn’t sit and watch, but the best leader leads by example.
Fourth, shepherd leadership restores. Verse 3 says, “He restoreth my soul…” Restoring is the same as restocking the shelves. In other words, the leader will restock the shelves of the believer with the goods they are missing in life. Leaders must teach to be good leaders. Leaders must be engaged with those they lead so they know what they are lacking so they can restock the shelf of the believer. You cannot lead from a distance; you can only lead by being engaged with those you lead. If you are going to restore the souls of those you lead, you are going to have to be around them, work with them, and listen to them to hear them talk so that you know what they are lacking and what you need to do to restock their shelves.
Fifth, shepherd leadership defines the paths to walk. Verse 3 continues to say, “…he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” One of the greatest misnomers is that a shepherd leader doesn’t define the paths. Let me clearly state that the old paths must be clearly defined for the sheep so they will know where they are to walk. You will find that shepherd leadership always results in confidence and security to the follower as seen in verses 4-6.