NielsenData Blog by Jared Nielsen

How Inspiration Can Eliminate The Need For Management - a Tale of Two Shepherds

Inspiration is a critical component of any workforce development initiative.  As a leader, you are often faced with the issue of how to get your employees to drive themselves rather than "being driven."  Much like pushing a rope, it's far simpler if each person pulls their own weight.

What is a Shepherd?

In the old days a shepherd was a pastoral figure who carried a staff who would leave the fence yard and walk directly out into the countryside.  The entire herd of sheep were following close behind of their own volition as they marched out to pasture.  There is some question about how they were motivated to follow the shepherd and what did they stand to gain?  Logic dictates that somehow they learned to trust this human that walked before them as it couldn't be instinct.  They also had developed a trained response because each and every time they followed the shepherd, they would find lush green grass and ample water.  The secret to this method of motivation is the reward confirmed their faith in their leader, so the leader no longer needed to drive the sheep... he simply needed to lead them to pasture.

Have You Seen a Modern Shepherd?

In modern times, the colloquial image of a shepherd no longer exists.  In our advanced society we have shed the humble robes and the utilitarian staff and have traded up.  The modern shepherd is more like a wi-fi enabled cowboy, astride a Jeep Cherokee SUV, powering behind the herd with a pack of twenty dogs who are nipping at the heels of the sheep.  In this scenario the motivation is fear, without a sense of objective or direction.  In this case the sheep only run when driven and even when they run, they have no idea where they are going.  They simply know that there are teeth at the other end and while the shepherd can relax in his jeep while charging his USB smartphone, he is not leading... he is simply harvesting.

What Type of Leader Are You?

This level of distinction is important to examine as you look to your own leadership skills and patterns.  Are you the heel-biter that chases your employees from task to task?  That's working really hard for your money but you will see short-term successes.  

Are you the leader who sets the example and walks before your employees, demonstrating the path and ensuring that you are leading them in safety to the end goal?  There are longer term benefits to this but it requires investing in your team and walking the talk as you set a good example.

How you lead will drift into how you live your life so choose carefully.
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