Good leaders lead

Good leaders lead


It seems like a statement so obvious it’s not even worth stating. But just look around…evidently, it’s not that obvious. How often have you seen “leaders” try to lead their team by goading them from behind.

Good leadership is all about location. Are you leading from out in front or goading from behind? Are you visible to your team (your students, your employees, your kids) or following in the shadows behind, goading them to go into areas you aren’t willing to go?

A goad is a stick used to drive livestock to a desired location. I believe there are at least three “goads” used by poor leaders (or parents or coaches or teachers) to drive their teams instead of leading them from the front.

  1. The goad of threats. Threatening others just to get them to do what you want them to do isn’t leadership at all. You’ll recognize this goad if you hear the words, “If you don’t do this, I’ll…”
  2. The goad of manipulation. Using guilt or the promise of reward to motivate is not leadership. You’ll know you’re dealing with a manipulator if you hear the words, “If you’ll do this, I’ll…”
  3. The goad of oppression. Driving a team just because you’re “the boss” isn’t leadership. Oppression sounds like this, “Because I’m the boss that’s why!”

I suppose all of these do have one thing in common. Control.

“I’m goading you because I can. Because I’m bigger than you, stronger than you. I have more seniority than you. I have more money than you.”

This isn’t leadership. Goading is the easy way. It doesn’t take integrity to goad. It doesn’t take courage to goad. It doesn’t take vulnerability or being available to goad. It just takes power and a big stick.

Want a shortcut to cheap and ineffective leadership?

Don’t lead. Goad.

Long ago I heard a story from a friend who had just returned from a trip to the Holy Land. While walking through the old section of Jerusalem with his guide he saw a shepherd walking behind his sheep through the narrow streets.

The sheep were not cooperating with him at all. At every intersection, several of the sheep would try to peel off to the left or right instead of staying on course. He couldn’t seem to get them to go where he wanted them to go. The shepherd had a stick (goad) in his hand, trying desperately to prod and direct the sheep from behind but without much luck.

After a few moments, my friend asked his guide why the shepherd insisted on driving his sheep like that when it obviously was not working. The guide said, “Oh, that’s not the shepherd. The shepherd always leads from the front. That’s the butcher. The butcher drives the sheep from behind.”

When you choose to become the leader God called you to be, you set aside your goad. Your authority is not license to threaten, or manipulate or oppress. Good leaders don’t use control just because they’re in charge. They do more showing and less telling. They get out front and set the example.

With confidence they say, “Watch me. Do it like this.”

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  • There are (a t least) one other common goad:
    4. The goad of shame: Driving the team to your micro-managing details instead of realizing each members worth, value and contribution. “You should have done this…”

    As for number 2 (manipulation), it is not always guilt, but dishonesty.


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