The Way of the Shepherd: The Heart of the Shepherd

This is the last week of our Leadership Series on the book, The Way of the Shepherd by Kevin Leman. Ted finally finishes the last semester of his MBA, and his next step is to begin at General Technologies. Dr. Neumann invites him to the house for dinner with him and his wife, and to discuss the 7th and final principle of the way of the shepherd. 

  1. Know the Condition of Your Flock
  2. Discover the Shape of Your Sheep
  3. Help Your Sheep Identify with You
  4. Make Your Pasture a Safe Place
  5. The Staff of Direction
  6. The Rod of Correction
  7. The Heart of the Shepherd

Before we get into this last segment, I want to say something quick. It’s possible that some of you have followed along with us these last seven weeks and come to the conclusion that, while these are neat ideas, when faced with the realities that you deal with every day, these principles are next to impossible to live up to in the real world or in this type of industry. 

And I would counter that thought with – You are exactly right. 

It makes me appreciate how this book comes to a close that much more, because you must understand that leading people as this book calls us to lead is daunting and extremely costly. But the rewards are significant - even eternal. 


Great leadership is a lifestyle, not a technique. 

Dr. Neumann approaches this in their last visit together before Ted begins his new leadership role at GT. He tells him bluntly, “This approach to leadership comes with a high price tag for the leader: Your time, your commitment, your personal energy and involvement. It will cost you yourself. You aren’t learning a set of management techniques but an outlook. More than anything, the Way of the Shepherd is a lifestyle of leadership that places great value on the worth of the flock.” 

Every day you have to decide who’s going to pay for your leadership – you or your people. 

Dr. Neumann brings up the image of the flock of sheep that looked deplorable and unkempt. Their “shepherd” was not willing to pay the price and the sheep ended up paying for his poor leadership. He explains further, “Someone has to pay; it’s just a matter of who will pay. The thing is it’s not the sheep that get to decide. That decision is made by the one who tends the flock. So every day when you go to work, you get to decide who’s going to pay for your leadership that day – you or your people.” Neumann refers to their microeconomics class and the reality that the price one is willing to pay reflects the value one attributes to something – or someone. 

“If you are not willing to pay the price, your people will end up paying.” 

At this point he brings in a new player in the life of the sheep – the ‘hireling’. Unlike the shepherd, the hireling tends to the sheep because it is his ‘job’. Neumann explains, “The sheep mean nothing to someone like that than an opportunity to get paid. If you’re looking for the difference between me and the other man [the shepherd of the pitiful flock] and why I’m willing to pay a price that he is not, there it is. He tends the sheep for the money. I do it because I love the sheep, and that makes all the difference.” 

He who is a hireling, and not a shepherd, who is not the owner of the sheep, beholds the wolf coming, and leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf snatches them, and scatters them.
— John 10:12 (NASB)

Most of all have a heart for your sheep. 

“What makes a shepherd a shepherd isn’t the staff or the rod; it’s the heart. What distinguishes a great leader from a mediocre one is that a great leader has a heart for his people.” 

To me, this is the line in the sand. From this day forward, you are going to consciously have to determine who is going to pay for your leadership. It’s an incredibly heavy burden, and yet the rewards and return for the investment from an earthly perspective (profits, business success – both great things) pale in comparison to the eternal significance that having a heart for those that you are leading can bring. How you lead others directly reflects the condition of your heart. 


Have a heart for the people you have been called to lead. 

Don’t be a hireling and do the job just for a paycheck. Be a shepherd of the people who have been entrusted to your care. Believe in those you are leading. Help them see the potential within themselves that maybe they can’t see on their own and help them reach it. Invest in your people like never before. Be the example of trust, integrity, compassion, and leadership that we all long to experience. 

Lead with the Heart of a Shepherd.