Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 9, 2000
Nurse wants managers to 'smell like sheep'
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
If you are a good leader, people will notice - you smell like a sheep.
Barbara Shellian says good leaders are like the biblical shepherds, who lived with the flock and nurtured enduring relationships with their sheep.
Shepherd-style leaders are involved with the flock and exercise their leadership through care and concern, she said.
Shellian, a Canmore nurse and lecturer, spoke about models of leadership at the annual convention of the Catholic Health Association of Alberta. Some 150 delegates, many of them hospital managers, attended the Sept. 28-29 convention at Delta Edmonton South Hotel.
The shepherd model of leadership revolves around the relationship between the shepherd and the flock.
"The servant figure is one of love and service. Ancient shepherds lived with their flock and were as much part of the land as the sheep were. They smelled like a sheep."
Through a lifetime of shared experience, shepherds nurtured enduring, trusting relationships with their sheep, she said.
"Being in a leadership position does not guarantee a following but a trail of sheep will usually follow the voice of a trusted, committed shepherd."
In a society where trust is rarely extended or deserved, "the shepherd style of leadership by its very nature implies trust. Only a butcher chases the sheep, mistreating and insulting them for a purpose that is not particularly beneficial for the sheep," Shellian said to laughter.
"Sheep follow a shepherd because of trust and the establishment of a relationship with mutual expectations."
She also described some distorted leadership models, like the hired hand, who only works for a paycheque, cares nothing for the sheep, and has no sense of ownership. When times get tough the hired hand runs away.
"A hired hand desires the leadership position only to buy power or visibility for themselves but when things get tough they abandon the sheep, saving themselves but leaving the sheep vulnerable and scattered."
Cowboy-type leaders are different from shepherds in that "shepherds believe and cowboys drive," Shellian said.
"Cowboys wear spurs and crack whip. Cowboys force the herd to go their way."
Leaders sometimes resort to coercion in order to get cooperation but in reality they get mere compliance at best, Shellian said.
She suggested her audience ask themselves, "Do I smell like sheep today. Am I a shepherd leader at my work, in my board, in my community? Am I a servant to those who serve and do I care about building relationships and building people?"