The Shepherd Leader & The Enterprise Leader

faith and work leadership development organizational strategy Jun 20, 2022
A man gesturing with two hands in front of laptop sitting open on a wood desk. A woman is pictured in the background.

Highland Community Church is at a crossroads. Or perhaps more accurately, Pastor David Hill is at a crossroads.

You see, Pastor David is the second lead pastor in the history of the church, and the church has grown from 200 to just over 1,200 in the past five years under his care. He’s a good preacher, but as many of the people say, “He’s an even better shepherd.”

If you’re in crisis, his counsel is caring and calming. If you need accountability, he provides it with clarity but without shaming. When you’re stuck in parenting, he has just the insight to get you over the hump.

He’s not perfect, to be sure, but he’s humble and he’s hungry to learn. He’s kind and patient and easy to talk to.

He really is a great pastor.

But he is not very good at being the enterprise or organizational leader. He has twenty people on staff who all love pastor Dave but struggle with organizational Dave.

If a shepherd leader is a person who excels at caring for people, an enterprise leader is a person who excels at guiding an organization. A couple years ago I wrote a book titled The Five Tasks: What Every Senior Leader Needs To Do! These tasks are the things that an enterprise leader must make happen.

The Both/And

I believe that both ministry leaders and commercial leaders should embody a combination of shepherd and enterprise leadership skills. Let me explain.

A verse that has steered my adult life and work is Psalm 78:70-72. It is my life verse, of sorts. The verse is about David, and it shows the evolution of a leader as well as the unique qualities of David’s leadership.

“He chose David his servant and took him from the sheep pens, he brought him from tending ewes to be shepherd over his people Jacob—over Israel, his inheritance. He shepherded them with a pure heart and guided them with his skillful hands.”

Did you notice that the “customer” of David’s leadership changed from sheep to people? Did you also notice that he utilized some of the same skill set in both assignments? He was a shepherd in both areas of his life.

David moved from the day-to-day care of animals to guiding a nation. He went from being an expert in the habits of sheep to the intricate tendencies of people (and this was before the Enneagram). He went from being the do-it-all guy to the empowering team leader. He went from managing to leading, in some ways.

Have you ever felt out of your league on one side or the other of this discussion? Many non-profit leaders (including pastors) simply don’t have the skills of doing quarterly reviews with staff, hiring and firing staff when needed, overseeing budgets, or crafting a compelling strategic plan. At the same time, many enterprise leaders are masterful at the hard stuff but could use a little time in the “shepherd leader gym.”

Answering an Objection—Can’t I Just Outsource?

It’s a fair question—isn’t this why you have a second-in-command … to balance you out? A people-person to keep me from being too hard-charging? Or a strategic person to keep us moving forward while I care for the people?

It is wise to surround yourself with people who balance you out, but at the end of the day, if you’re the leader, what you value gets passed on to the organization. If you only value shepherding people or organizational clarity, that’s what will get passed on as primary … at the expense of the other.

A successful church, non-profit, and business needs someone at the top aiming to be both a shepherd leader and an enterprise leader. As Paul Polman of Unilever said, “You can outsource your work, but you cannot outsource your responsibility.”

The life of leadership is the life of balancing (actually, wrestling might be a more accurate term) the different skill sets required of leadership. It doesn’t mean you have to be equally great at everything. It means you have to recognize your default setting and be able to push against it when needed.

Great shepherds don’t just think about individual sheep after all, they think about the condition and success of the whole flock. And that includes selling the sheep wool at the right time to garner best pricing. Both / and.

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