Leadership smile

Do you ever find yourself pondering, just what is leadership? When thinking about the word leadership, one could make the connection with different kinds of words or phrases. Sometimes I hear “Leader Ship”, “Lead the Ship”, “Leader Sheep” or “Lead the Sheep”. It’s even more interesting that they all portray slightly different aspects of Leadership.

The one that strikes me most as I pen this blog is “Lead the Sheep”. Referring to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheep, it was intriguing to note these fun facts about sheep:

  • Sheep have a strong tendency to follow, and a leader may simply be the first individual to move.
  • Peripheral vision may be greatly reduced by “wool blindness”.
  • All sheep have a tendency to congregate close to other members of a flock, and can become stressed when separated from their flock members.

I can’t help but to feel that sometimes human beings can behave like sheep especially when in a group context. And depending on whether we are leading as the ‘leader sheep’ or as the shepherd, we may want to adopt different approaches.

As ‘Leader Sheep’

As the leader in the team, we should be the one that maintains peripheral vision. Be aware that generally, if we improve, the team improves; if we change, the team changes. This article by McKinsey & Company seems to summarise it best.

It starts by quoting Leo Tolstoy, the Russian novelist, “Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” How true!

As the leader of the team, we should look both outward AND inward. Understanding self and what makes us tick is paramount. Leaders generally look at business outcomes and developing skills, but forget about motivating themselves and the individuals they serve. Quoting from the article, “Individuals have their own inner lives, populated by their beliefs, priorities, aspirations, values, and fears. These interior elements vary from one person to the next, directing people to take different actions.”

The article continues to talk about how understanding people can help leaders close the performance gap, and I believe that this can start by using a psychometric instrument like the Emergenetics Profile which reveals one’s thinking and behaving preferences.

As Shepherd

Just like how sheep need a shepherd to guide them along, sometimes team members or even the team leader need a coach or mentor.

If you have the privilege of playing that role, bear in mind that every individual is unique. Hence, your approach of coaching or mentoring may appeal to some and not to others.

We should strive to be as cognitively diverse as possible – utilising our strengths yet being aware that others may have different preferences in learning.

When I am helping others to learn, the question I often ask myself is “Am I creating the impact that I want even though I have the right intention?” Following that, I ask, “How can I teach this differently if the first way doesn’t work well?”


We arrive back at the question, what is leadership? The truth is that leadership can take make different forms or approaches. Ultimately, leading, coaching and mentoring can all have a positive impact on people. We only need to remind ourselves that we have to first start with the self – to harness the power of ME before we can reap the Power of WE.

“The first and best victory is to conquer self.”
— Plato, Greek Philosopher

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