When one thinks of an airplane, there is some picture in mind of a specifically-designed flying object. It can differ in size and style, but every plane has many aspects in common, perhaps most important is the transportation component that gets people from one place to another.
When one thinks of a leader, the pictures envisioned can vary greatly. But, like a plane, a leader helps to get people from one place to another. The means of transportation is that of relationship and influence (see blog post #5 on leading well).
Mental models help us remember and communicate. When leadership models can be simple yet complete they crystalize vital concepts. They enable one to live and lead more effectively by focusing on the few responsibilities that matter most out of perhaps hundreds of possibilities.
Metaphors are something regarded as representative or symbolic of something else, especially something abstract. Leadership is clearly one of the more abstract concepts, seen by the multiple definitions promoted. Once an image is grasped, a person can generalize that picture into other settings.
As followers of Jesus, we should first look to the Bible for our models and metaphors of worthy leaders and on outstanding leadership. Such a study will force us to encapsulate insights and principles to identify who a leader is at the core.
Of all the leadership roles in the Bible, only one begins in Genesis and is woven throughout until Revelation. In Genesis chapter four we learn that Abel was a shepherd, a keeper of flocks. In Revelation chapter 7 we see reference to Jesus, the Lamb, as the Shepherd who guides. The Bible Gateway internet program indicates 104 references to shepherd. A study of this word “shepherd” throughout the Bible lists many good and bad character qualities as well as many responsibilities that either bring good when performed well or harm when neglected.
Shepherd Leader is a metaphor for godly, biblical leadership. As a shepherd exercises the proper responsibilities toward those under his or her leadership, people thrive. Just as sheep and other domestic animals need to be led, nurtured or developed, and cared for, so people need the same leadership for health and safety. Although leaders in the Bible go by many names, none is more comprehensive in scope and affirmed in value than that of a shepherd.
When many people think of the term “shepherd” in religious settings, the default is usually that of a caregiver. Certainly providing care is an important responsibility of a good shepherd, but a good shepherd is much more than that. A godly, biblical shepherd both leads and develops or nurtures the flock so all can flourish.
So, from a study of the word “shepherd” in the Bible, one can conclude that the primary metaphor of a leader is that of a shepherd. In the next few blog posts consideration will be given to other biblical leadership metaphors, the significance of Jesus being The Good Shepherd, and how leaders serve as under-shepherds.
Next Blog: Various Biblical Metaphors for Leadership