A leader may learn their best lessons by watching a sheepdog. Sheepdogs are bright, full of unbridled energy, and loyal. They are, above all, goal oriented and intensely focused on rounding up the sheep for which they are responsible and herding them in the right direction. In this same way, the visionary sheepdog guides the group in the right strategic direction. But how can we take the lessons learned from the sheepdog and apply them to the business world?
A modern business fable, The Visionary Sheepdog was developed by Susan J. Lindahl and Paul A. Lindahl Jr. The successful leader is often the one who says less and directs less, instead gaining more in goal attainment and cultural equilibrium by remaining focused on the task. The fable helps to put in perspective the role of a leader in an organizational intervention.
The concept is straightforward. We start by leading one or two people as we try to herd them to the location of the tools, materials and knowledge they need, with the hope that they will pick those things up and begin to learn how to use them effectively. We then continue herding them to join with more people by circling around and around to keep the stragglers in the group as a sheepdog would do with his or her herd. As the knowledge grows and the group is brought to clear goals by the sheepdog (leader), the goal-oriented, empowered and enabled team processes emerge.