The Shepherd Leadership Inventory (SLI)

The Shepherd Leadership Inventory (SLI)

Jamie Swalm (Regent University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2172-5.ch012
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Because shepherding is one of the oldest occupations of humanity, the metaphor of the shepherd as leader dates back thousands of years and is a universal image. Therefore, the shepherd leader metaphor is an ideal vehicle through which to study leadership. The Shepherd Leadership Inventory (SLI) measures the degree to which individual leaders are leading as shepherd leadership in the workplace. Through the initial study of the shepherd leader metaphor beginning with the Scriptures and continuing through modern authors, it was determined shepherd leaders are leaders who insure the wellbeing of their followers through the three primary leader behaviors of guiding, providing, and protecting. The Shepherd Leadership Inventory (SLI) incorporates items to assess these behaviors and was validated through the use of principal component factor analysis. This chapter discusses the background and development of the SLI including reporting on the reliability and validity of the instrument. The results of the inventory are discussed along with commentary on the SLI’s relevance to researchers and practitioners. Information regarding cost and location, as well as additional reading recommendations, is included.
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The Shepherd Leadership Inventory: Introduction

The Shepherd Leader Metaphor

The basis for shepherd leadership is the metaphorical usage of shepherding imagery which the Scriptures us to describe leadership. From the beginning of the Bible to the end, the shepherd as leader metaphor occurs often suggesting God relates to his people and leaders relate to their followers as shepherds (Donelson, 2004). Overall the shepherd leader metaphor occurs more than five hundred times in the Old and New Testaments and is the primary biblical metaphor for spiritual leadership (Anderson, 1997). Since Morgan (1997) suggests metaphors aid the ability to understand leadership by providing a framework through which to view leadership concepts, it follows the shepherd leader metaphor provides a lens through which to understand leadership. The metaphor is easier to understand than the leadership construct so by progressing from the metaphor to the construct the student of leadership is able to more clearly understand leadership. In short, the metaphor of the shepherd as leader is a lens through which leadership is more easily understood. Therefore the shepherd leadership metaphor provides a lens through which the people of God understand God’s leadership and what is required of them as leaders to lead according to God’s desire. It also provides a framework for people to understand their relationship with God and their responsibility as leaders to leader their followers as shepherds.

Throughout history the metaphor of the shepherd leader developed over thousands of years because the occupation of shepherding is one of the oldest known occupations of humanity (Leman & Pentak, 2004). As one of humanities earliest occupations, shepherding represented a viable means of economic prosperity in early agrarian societies (Elwell & Beitzel, 1998). Therefore shepherding became widely known throughout the world. As an example, the domestication of sheep dates back to as early as 9000 BC (Achtemeier, Harper, & Row, 1985). Because shepherding was important to early agrarian societies and because shepherding wise widespread, a large and complex set of shepherd imagery developed over the course of thousands of years. This imagery became linked to leadership. For example, in ancient times good and just leaders were pictured as shepherds of their people (Tappy, 1995). This connected leadership actions or behaviors with the metaphor of the shepherd. Usually the shepherd leader was pictured as a benevolent leader interested in caring for the people. Freedman (1992/1996) suggests the widespread development of shepherd leader imagery resulted in the shepherd’s crook becoming a common ancient symbol of the leader’s power and authority which continues to this day.

The shepherd leader metaphor is also spiritual in nature because the basic underlying framework for the metaphor develops significantly throughout the historical context of the Scriptures. Since the imagery of the shepherd leader occurred often throughout history, the Biblical writers often use shepherding imagery to describe leadership, placing the shepherd leadership metaphor squarely in a spiritual framework. Ultimately, the use of the shepherd leader imagery in the Scriptures suggests God as he reveals himself through the Scriptures describes himself as a shepherd leader. This suggests there is something inherently consistent about the leadership of a shepherd and God’s leadership of His people. As a result, the largest body of literature describing the development of shepherd leadership imagery is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments. The vast majority of authors writing about shepherd leadership today use the Scriptures as the basis of their work. For example, in their book “Like a Shepherd Lead Us”, Fleer & Siburt (2006) edit a work composed of seven chapters written by seven different authors on the subject of leading like a shepherd. Each author uses the Scriptures as their theoretical framework for leading like a shepherd. Wagner (1999) suggests because of the prominence of the shepherd leaders metaphor, spiritual leadership should model their ministries after it. McCormic & Davenport (2003) use the Biblical framework of Psalm 23 to suggest shepherd leaders are leaders concerned with the whole person. They are suggesting that shepherd leadership is more about being a certain type of leader instead of applying an external leadership strategy to the decision making process. Their point is well made and echoed by the shepherd leadership inventory. On the surface a shepherd leader can appear as a leader who performs certain behavioral tasks associated with shepherd leadership. It would follow that anyone could be a shepherd leader by engaging in these tasks. Yet being a shepherd leader is primarily about being as opposed to doing. In other words, the doing of the shepherd leader flows from the being of the shepherd leader. Shepherd leaders perform certain behavioral tasks because they are shepherd leaders as opposed to being shepherd leaders because they perform those tasks. The behaviors do not make a shepherd leader a shepherd leader. Instead, they demonstrate that a leader is a shepherd leader. Perhaps this is best seen in the example of Jesus. In the New Testament, Jesus is the great shepherd leader. The Apostle Paul describes the heart of his shepherd leadership in Philippians 2:4-11 by indicating Jesus did not look only to his own interests but also to humanities interests through the crucifixion. As a result god exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name. So Jesus is a shepherd leader not because of the behavior of allowing himself to be crucified, but rather because he looked to the interests of others and therefore allowed himself to be crucified. In other words, it is looking to the interests of others that made Jesus a shepherd leader, not the behavior of being crucified. Ultimately this demonstrates shepherd leadership cannot be separated from the motivational component. Shepherd leaders are shepherd leaders because they truly desire the wellbeing of their followers. Jesus captured the essence of this idea when he said, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays his life down for the sheep.” (John 10:11). Following these words Jesus contrasts the good shepherd with the hired hand who runs away when he sees the wolf coming. The hired hands runs away because he cares nothing for the sheep while the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep because he cares for the sheep. The very essence of a shepherd leader is a leader who cares about their followers and works toward their wellbeing. This principle is seen in the Old Testament, the New Testament, and in contemporary shepherd leadership material both scholarly and popular.

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