Great Leaders Do This

Leaders are leaders for a reason. You and other leaders are willing to take the first step and guide others.

You’re the one people look to in times of trouble. You’re the one to give direction.

sheep on a cliff

Image by Stephen Jones

I recently came across a story from 2005 about sheep in the town of Gevas, Turkey. Here’s what happened:

Shepherds were watching the flock as they grazed on a cliff. Breakfast came and the shepherds decided to take off to eat, leaving the sheep to themselves.

Shortly thereafter, the first sheep took a step over the cliff, falling to it’s death. Then nearly 1,500 of the other sheep followed him over the cliff.

When all was said and done, there were 450 dead sheep at the bottom of the cliff. Thankfully, for the other 1,000 sheep, the bodies of the first sheep cushioned their fall enough to survive.

Sounds crazy but it’s true. You can check out the USA Today article here.

What happened

The shepherds, the leader of the flock, took off and left the sheep to graze with no supervision. With the lack of supervision, the sheep followed one another. Eventually leading to their deaths.

As leaders, we’re required to be on guard and watchful for changes in the environment and in our employees. They’re our responsibility and we must take it seriously.

What needs to be done

Leaders need to be cautious when they leave their area of responsibility.

Assure that there are plans in place to guarantee the safety and productivity of your team. Without you, they may be willing to follow the first person to take action. This may or may not be a good thing. Make sure it is!

What great leaders do

Great leaders protect their team. They know that they’re the ones leading the charge. They know dangers and risks will come. They’re willing to stay and protect the team.

Great leaders ensure their team knows what to do. They’re unwilling to take off for “breakfast” until the team has their orders.

Great leaders equip their team to think on their own. The greatest thing a leader can do is to give their team the power to function on their own. Leaders empower their team to do what needs to be done when it needs to be done.

Question: What else do great leaders do? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • My army ranger buddies would say “team leaders eat last.”

    • Love that Tom. They’re willing to wait for the reward while their team is being served. 

      • Leaders also call their followers by their first name.  😉

        ——– Original message ——–

  • Great leaders have empathy for their team members.

    • That is true Dan. Great leaders are able to feel and react to the needs/feelings of their team.

  • Love this quote-“Leaders need to be cautious when they leave their area of responsibility.”

    I think “Leaders know when to get help” applies as well.

    • Thanks Tessa. How can you apply this to your leadership?

  • Good leaders need to listen and HEAR what those they lead are saying to them. Listening  can be an entirely passive action, hearing goes deeper. Hearing requires processing the information and acting on it. I would rather have my boss tell me that something is not a good idea or that they’ll get back to me, than just say “thanks for the input” and then walk away. By telling me he/she doesn’t think something would work or they’ll get back to me at the very least communicates that “I HEAR you”. Kind of like the line from the movie Avatar, “I SEE you”.

    • Great points David. There’s many days we LISTEN without really taking in the information. Just ask any wife if her husband listens or hears her. 

      • Oh so painfully true!

  • Crazy story about the sheep! Really makes you think about all the bad shepherds out there and those willing to follow poor direction.

    This world needs people willing to do what needs to be done, people who will do the right thing instead of the easy thing.

    Leading certainly isn’t easy…anyone who wants to be a leader needs to really count the costs, because it will cost you more than you ever imagined…but it will also bless you abundantly as well.

    • My thoughts exactly TC. I was amazed when I heard it and couldn’t believe it happened and yet it did. 

  • DS

    Great leaders train, coach, and challenge developing leaders to be able to step up and step out as needed.  Great illustrative story!

  • That is an amazing story. Make me take inventory of who is listening to me. Thanks for the reminder. 

    • Hey Jeff, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Great idea to take inventory of who’s listening to you. Also, one thing I found out is that there’s always others who are listening to you that you’ll never know about. They’re in the corners but they’re watching and listening. Keep them in mind as well.

      • DS

        So true Joe.

  • Leaders set guardrails (which I suppose those sheep could have used) and let their teams operate within those boundaries.  To me the story illustrates that we are leading whether we are there or not…

    • I like that analogy Tom. Imagine the number of sheep that could have been saved by having guard rails and boundaries in place.

    • Ed Boring

      …and the boundaries our Creator has set for us are in his Word; total freedom inside his boundaries, danger outside his boundaries.
      Also, this story reminds me of John 10:12-13 – beware of ‘hired hands’ who are not true shepherds.

  • David (from the Bible) would never let that happen:)  Such a great reminder Joe. It’s essential to be connected and close to our teams.

    •  No, no he wouldn’t. He’d be with the sheep ready to protect them. Interesting you brought him up as I’m reading through his story right now!

      • DS

        Even David struggled with being away from his team.  Later in life when his men are off at war, he’s drooling at someone across the rooftop…we all have to guard ourselves.

      •  Nice, that’s a great story full of insights ans wisdom. It amazes me every time that after David was anointed to be King he went right back to attending sheep after word. There is a gap from when we was called to walking into his calling. Those gaps are the training times when God works in us so we can move into our calling.

  • Great leaders model desired behavior.  When a leader sticks around for the duration of the day or week, other employees will realize that this is also what they are supposed to do.

    • Dead on Jon. Setting a great example is a must for leaders.

  • Colin Watson

    I really like the sheep story, I may just steal it as an example some time! I think great leaders also think proactively about potential dangers. If only those shepherds had stopped to considered the fact there were numerous cliffs where the sheep could easily fall off of. Likewise, when leading our own groups, we look for those dangerous areas or situations that could be unhealthy to leave them in. I know that in my bible study, I have to be on alert for what’s being discussed and ideas that slip in. I love the discussion, but I have to keep alert that it’s not subtly leading people away from Jesus.

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