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As an invited guest to the NAS Pensacola National Naval Aviation Museum, I had the honor of attending the "winging" of a group of young aviators. Rear Admiral Mark Vance was the guest speaker to address this assembly of recently graduated Navy and Marine aviators with a welcome to the fleet speech. I found myself feeling like I too was being given a "charge to order on the tip of the spear". The charge to order in simplified terms was to always be ready to be a leader, an important skill set for automotive management. The Rear Admiral went on to explain the dynamics of service and leadership by relating the experience to that of a herd of sheep, something everyone can understand.
Sheep live in a world where they must believe that there is no wolf in order to maintain their carefree lifestyle. Sheep tend to prefer popularity over individualism and therefore will often go with the flow. They have no sense of urgency or danger. They move through life as one large orderly mass that maintains close connections with the flock. Their safety is left in the hands of a guardian, usually a sheepdog. Example: A manager who is more concerned with politicking and agreeing with the boss, than being a stand of the betterment of the people he is supposed to be leading.
A wolf lurks in the shadows as an opportunistic predatory. A wolf drives a selfish agenda using fear and intimidation to gain power and prey on the sheep. Sometimes the wolf acts alone and sometime it will form a pack of like-minded wolves. Every action of a wolf is selfish and without concerns for any life other than its own. The wolf fears nothing but does find the sheepdog a worthy adversary. Example: A leader who makes demands of the people they lead, but would not be willing to make those same sacrifices or actions if they shoe were on the other foot.
The sheepdog lives a life protecting the sheep at all costs, including bodily harm. The sheepdog’s life is that of service and devoid of selfish goals. Sheepdogs are not popular with the sheep since a dog looks like a wolf. Sheepdogs are also not popular with the wolves, as the wolves see them as a threat to their motives. The sheep wish the sheepdog was more like them and the wolves wish the sheepdog would join their canine ranks. Therefore, the life of a sheepdog is often spent in solitude. A sheepdog never rests. It is always on alert and ready to defend the flock. The actions of a sheepdog are governed by integrity, service and duty. Example: The manager who leads by example and plays the game that you don’t win at all cost, but lead at all cost.
When working with an Automotive Management Recruiter, ask them to find a sheepdog. Effective leaders are usually sheepdogs. There is a fine line in mastering the role of a sheepdog, as a sheepdog must understand the lifestyles of both the sheep and the wolf. The role of an effective leader is that of a servant to those they have been charged to lead. An effective leader protects his organization and its people from harm. Being an effective leader is not always popular and often effective leaders find themselves ostracized from the masses. Effective leaders are often faced with challenges that have no sense of time and therefore must always be ready to act at a moment’s notice. Effective leaders are expected to govern themselves and their actions. Effective leaders employ integrity over selfish agendas while doing what is right over what is best.
For those in leadership roles in your career, which are you? The sheep that pretends to lead by being popular and going along with the flow? A wolf that drives a selfish agenda through the use of fear and intimidation? Or are you the sheepdog that is an always ready servant that defends without a selfish motive?