3 Leadership Principles We Can Learn from Shepherds

Leading More Like Jesus

In this 25th anniversary article, Sharon Simmonds (Arrow Class 16) briefly explores the imagery of shepherding in the Bible, and draws three leadership principles that will guide and enable us to lead more like Jesus. As you reflect on how Jesus embodies shepherding, as the Leader of leaders, share and discuss what it means to lead more like a shepherd in your family, church, or organization. 

I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will lead you with knowledge and understanding. Jeremiah 3:15 NIV

Interested to learn more about the connection between shepherding and leadership, I visited and interviewed two local shepherds. One comment greatly intrigued me: a calm shepherd creates a calm atmosphere, whereas a rushed or abrupt shepherd creates unsettled and jittery responses in the sheep. This logical insight caused me to reflect on Jesus the good Shepherd and to consider what it might look like for me to lead more like Him – like a shepherd after His own heart.


Jesus embodies the essence of a calm and steady shepherd. Although he had tremendous demands, he never seemed rushed, frantic, or busy. There was a lightness and freedom about him, not taking himself or others too seriously, and certainly not frightened or reactive to public opinion. Even when dealing with storm-like conditions (weather and people), everything about his leadership practice implies thoughtful consideration and three consistently integrated shepherding principles: relationship, care and ability. Here’s what we can learn:

1) Learn to Shepherd in Relationship

Jesus called the disciples to follow him, and his ministry was primarily invested in this group. He promoted togetherness, oneness, trust, unity, love and collaboration. He taught and interacted with them. Comforted and assured them. Corrected and warned them. Loved and prayed for them. Leading like a shepherd places an emphasis on relating well with those in our leadership circle and with those who are entrusted to our care.

2) Learn to Shepherd with Care

Attentive and responsive to people’s needs, Jesus promoted and brought goodness to people and social situations. He addressed needs of the multitude and zeroed in on a particular person with a specific need. There were also some needs that he did not respond to. Jesus knew who to pay attention to and what care was needed. And when it came to self-care, he tended to rhythms of work and rest, ministry and social time, full-on engagement and time to relax. Leading like a shepherd involves awareness, compassion, provision, protection, discernment and growing in our ability to lead well.

3) Learn to Shepherd with Ability

Jesus was singularly focused on his purpose and mission. He inquired of his Father for guidance to set priorities and he trusted him in everything. Jesus did not overextend himself or use his abilities and power to promote or protect himself. He poured his time, energy and skills into settings where he could make God known, inviting people into new and abundant life – and he involved and developed the disciples to do the same. Leading like a shepherd combines streamlined commitment to a specific assignment and competence to faithfully fulfil those responsibilities.


Shepherding principles of relationship, care and ability assist me in leading more like Jesus. First, I experience the Lord’s shepherding in an intimate relationship with him, and then I am enabled by him to lead like a shepherd with knowledge and understanding: to lead calmly, to love well, to promote and bring good, to facilitate life-giving practices for myself and those I lead, and to integrate learning with practice – for God’s glory and for the good of the people, the community, the church or the organization where I serve.

Reflection Questions:

  • Am I a calm and steady leader? Why or why not?
  • Which shepherding principle is most natural for me? How is this displayed?
  • Which shepherding principle could use some attention and practice for me to lead more like Jesus?


Sharon Simmonds believes that the condition of Christian leaders really matters for the Church of Jesus Christ to flourish and for God’s glory to be revealed. Facilitating in various church and ministry contexts, she is committed to encourage, strengthen, and develop leaders and leadership groups for this purpose. Sharon serves with Arrow Leadership as a leadership partner and resource project manager. Sharon and her husband, Gord, live in Uxbridge, Ontario, and they have four young adult children and one daughter-in-law.