3 Leadership Lessons From a Jordanian Sheep

Sheep and shepherdI took this picture in Jordan earlier this year.  I was a square supervisor on an archaeological dig at Tall el-Hammam, thought to be the site of the biblical city of Sodom.  A bedouin family had set up camp next to the section of the site where I worked, and every day we’d watch the shepherd lead his sheep on their daily walk for food and water.  They were kept penned in when they were near the tent, but occasionally one of the sheep would escape his confinement and begin to wander.  And then the trouble began.

Our squares were on the side of a hill, and that hill is covered with rocks, stones, and boulders.  I don’t recall ever seeing so many rocks in my life.  And it was on this hillside that I saw one of these escaped sheep wander away from its herd.

This particular sheep did ok for a while going up the hillside, but there came a point when it realized that it had walked into quite the predicament.  It had made its way partly up the hill, but now it couldn’t get down.  It was stuck, and even a sheep knows that when you can’t move, you’re prime picking for predators.

I felt like I was watching Jesus’ story from Luke 15 in action.  The 99 sheep were safely in their pens, but the one had wandered away and was now in trouble.  What now?

When he saw what happened, the shepherd walked up the hillside to where the sheep had wandered, picked it up, and carried it back to the safety of the herd.

What does this have to do with leadership?  Three things:

1)  The Bible compares people to sheep for a reason.  Just like sheep, people need to be led.  And when we’re not led well, we can get into all sorts of jams.  It really matters how leaders lead others.

2)  Rocks are everywhere.  It’s a leader’s job to lead, to guide.  If the leader doesn’t do it, who will?

3)  Sheep aren’t typically attacked when they are in a herd; they’re attacked when they wander off into isolation.  So too with people.  Community matters, and not just for the people we lead.

Leaders, if you’re not learning from those farther down the road from you, if you’re not reading books and articles by leaders who are more mature in their leadership than you, then you’re moving slowly but surely toward a place of solitary, isolated leadership where you’re not growing.  Don’t let that happen – be intentional about your development as a leader.  That’s how you grow, and those you lead will be grateful that you did so.

How are you intentionally growing and developing your leadership these days?