Why Shepherd Leadership?

There’s a pivotal element of shepherding that seems to be the most lacking in today’s world. It’s that of Presence.
A old shepherd feeds milk to a lamb in a grassy field.

by Holly Culhane

It’s been a privilege to teach, train, and facilitate conversations about servant leadership for over 30 years. The journey has been rich and rewarding. And, of course, it has always stretched me.

Why then have I turned my attention to shepherd leadership? Well, as I looked more closely at what Scripture taught about leading, the message went far beyond service to sacrifice. From the Father’s admonitions of the leaders of Israel, to David’s description of a perfect leader in Psalm 23, from the behaviors Jesus demonstrated as He walked this earth, to the example of the disciples’ lives after Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, the message is clear:  effective influence – leading well those you impact – requires both service and sacrifice.

It isn’t an either/or proposition, but a both/and imperative.

Shepherd leadership doesn’t replace servant leadership, it deepens it.

It’s almost like adding sacrifice to true service exponentiates the exhibited behavior, not just adding to the effort the leader exerts, but repeatedly multiplying it!

You see, service as a leader, as an influencer, as an impactor of lives, isn’t enough. True, deep, life-changing influence requires sacrifice. Sacrificing your desires, your preferences, and your hopes for that of the person you’re leading.  And, interestingly, no position or responsibility more beautifully and perfectly demonstrates that level of selfless service and sacrifice than that of a shepherd of sheep – one whose provision for, protection of, and presence with the flock daily, instills obedience, encourages devotion, and inspires pursuit.


Biblical leadership, influencing and impacting as Scripture outlines, is both service-driven and sacrifice-oriented.  It must be! You can be a leader who serves, but there must be something on the other side of that service. The “why” behind your actions as a leader must be greater than getting something in return. Otherwise, you may simply be serving for yourself and not for the good of those you influence – whether it’s your organization, your family, your church, or your community.

Could this be why the Lamb of God called Himself the Good Shepherd – rather than the Good Servant or the Good Fisherman, the Good Carpenter, or the Good Stonemason? Possibly.

Could it be the metaphor of the shepherd and the related mega-theme in Scripture of shepherding goes deeper than a cultural analogy for the times, reaching to the heart of Who Jesus is, what He demonstrated, repeatedly, and how He led, and that it captures a crucial element imperative to leading well?  Yes, I believe it does!

Both Matthew and Mark quote Jesus as saying, “I did not come to be served, but to serve and to give my life as a ransom for many.”

You see, it’s not possible to lead well, truly with the best interest of the “other” in mind – whomever that “other” is – without adding sacrifice to your service.

Leaders who serve hoping for something in return – whether it’s love or attention from a child, loyalty and diligence from an employee, dedication by a volunteer – sadly illustrates manipulation much more than selfless service and sacrifice.

The mystery of it all is that miracles happen when you take real service and add sacrifice. Those you influence will undoubtedly know. They’ll have what they need, they’ll feel secure, and they’ll know they’re cared for. You see, your service and your sacrifice make a way for those you lead to have the opportunity for success, whatever that looks like for them.

Leading others through service is simply “the action of doing something for someone”. While sacrifice requires “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy”.  Service is the action.  Sacrifice is the why.

Consider this leadership equation:  SERVICE + SACRIFICE = SHEPHERD LEADERSHIP.

And when you add submission to the Father as part of that process, for an even more meaningful mathematical analogy, you have this equation:  SUBMISSION + SERVICE + SACRIFICE = positively impacting more lives than you can imagine! You see, shepherding truly changes everything!

Dig into Scripture for yourself. Dive into the responsibilities of shepherds with literal sheep. Take time to seek the Father’s insight into how you’re leading – and why.

Be intentional by focusing on your submission, your service, and your sacrifice by taking three to five minutes a day to work through one or more of the 30-Day Shepherd Leadership Challenge opportunities. They’re free on the Presence Point App! Then, develop an Action Plan that works for you and follow it.

I promise – as challenging as it may be – becoming a shepherd leader will help you live more deeply into your calling than ever before.

Will you join me on the shepherd leadership journey?

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Presence Point

Presence Point equips leaders to intentionally live into their calling as shepherds in the lives of those they lead, and partners with multipliers to do the same within their sphere of influence.

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