The Difference Between a Shepherd and a Leader

I love helping churches and leaders get unstuck and make vision real. In fact out of all the stuff I get to do with churches and leaders one of the things I enjoy the most is Leadership Coaching. Recently I had the incredible opportunity to spend a day coaching a group of Pastors and Church Leaders from Australia (unfortunately their cool accent didn’t rub off). One of the topics we spent time digging into was the difference between shepherding and leading in relation to why some churches are stuck while others move forward. Here are couple of thoughts from the conversation.

Leaders Lead and Shepherds Shepherd

This may sound naively obvious, but leaders and shepherds have different gifts and skill-sets. The Scriptures define leadership as a spiritual gift (Romans 12:8). Shepherding is an analogy that Jesus used along with various writers of the New Testament to describe to an agrarian culture what spiritual leadership looks and acts like.

People are Led by Leaders and Cared for by Shepherds

People follow leaders because the very essence of a leader is to lead. They’re going somewhere and people are inspired to go with them. On the other hand, people often feel endeared to shepherds because shepherds know their name, know what’s going on in their lives and provide more intimate care to their flock.

Shepherds have their Eyes on the Flock while Leaders have their Eyes on the Hill

Shepherds and leaders naturally think about and fix their gaze on different things. Shepherds are consumed with the state of the flock while leaders naturally drift towards the future and where they’re taking people.

Some of the best Church Leaders not only have a leadership gift, but also have the heart of a shepherd. Church Leaders who don’t naturally have the heart of a shepherd would do well and benefit by surrounding themselves with others on the team who do.

Posted in Leadership

One Response to “The Difference Between a Shepherd and a Leader”

  1. Lorenzo November 6, 2014 at 11:43 pm #

    I can see some unique characteristics of each role, but I’m actually finding it hard to bifurcate the two completely since it is still a shepherd’s responsibility to lead the flock, is it not?

    When you really ponder the varied responsibilities of a shepherd the richness of this metaphor comes alive and its easy to see why this metaphor is repeated over and over in scripture.

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