"Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us."
Jerry Garcia

Get Leadership Notes by Email

Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 345

Estimated reading time:  2.0 minutes


Greetings from the Air Canada lounge in Edmonton, in transit home to Vancouver. I’ve had a most interesting couple of days with an agricultural association, mapping strategy for the next three years. 


One of the conversations that came up a couple of times was about sheep. One participant, a sheep farmer, told a story about her teenage daughter reaching an insight about the number of sheep references in the ancient texts for Judaism, Christianity and Islam. In fact, knowing what she knew about sheep, she realized that comparing humans to sheep was not a great compliment to us humans!


It reminded me of the images of “shepherds” in those same texts. Interestingly, one of the reasons the ‘Angels’ appear to the shepherds first in Luke’s version of the story, is that shepherds were the people of the edge. In an increasingly urban world, people who spent their days on the slopes and pastures around the cities were outsiders to say the least. This is a metaphor that some of the best and most innovative ideas appear on the margins of the organization, far from the power and control of the centre. Tom Peters calls this phenomenon “The Sri Lanka Effect” http://axiomnews.com/user/456.


There are people in the hinterlands of your business or team. It is there that the ideas for the next possibilities for your organization or team are going to come from. Here are three ways to support these shepherds on your team:


  1. Ask their opinion, engage with them with ‘asks’ not ‘tells’.
  2. Give them boundaries, they do need to play by the rules, but too many restrictions will shut them down.
  3. Give them credit when and where it is due, remember the best ideas are likely going from them originally, not from the people in your immediate circle 


May this week be one of celebrating the shepherds in your team and the outsider/shepherd with each of us.