Herding Cattle or Leading Sheep, What Is Your Leadership Style?

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As I read the above question and reflected on several past experiences, I realized that prior to becoming a coach, more often than not, my activator tendency was to lead like an aggressive cattleman who pushes his agenda onto his cattle. When I did this, I made the mistake of assuming that people knew what I knew, thought like I thought, and wanted what I wanted. While I was busy doing things my way, people became passive and complacent. They did not explore or share their ideas because they were afraid they would be judged or harshly accused. When I led by pushing, my people were often lost in the process and had to fend for themselves. Recognizing my natural tendency to leap into action and take control was not only humbling, it also served as motivation to improve my leadership skills.

In hopes of doing so, I have spent a great amount of time and effort to become more shepherd-like. I remind myself I must first GAIN CONSENT, not control! I create an environment of trust by making myself easily accessible to my people by being present in person, phone and email. As they speak, I listen for their values; for what is important to them. In other words, I get to know my team; what makes each person “tick” and the unique value s/he brings. Then, I place each person in a position where the work is aligned with that person’s values and talents. I communicate to each person using predicates that connect them to my message. I am thoughtful in choosing words that explain exactly what I want in order to create clear understanding. I encourage my people to get creative and think outside of the box. I ask them to share their thoughts, feelings and ideas. Together, we come up with a plan to reach our mutually designed outcome. Much like the shepherd leader, I have learned through conscious effort and enduring the long process of building trust that I can have a positive impact on those that I lead.

General D. Eisenhower demonstrated the art of leadership with a simple piece of string.

He laid the string on the table and said, “Notice what happens when I pull this string; it goes wherever I lead it. Now, watch what happens when I push this string; it goes nowhere at all. That’s assault, not leadership.”

Molly Christianson