Leadership Approaches – Shepherd Leadership

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Part of the following ministry resources: Christian Leadership, Empowerment, Transformational Leadership. See also the closely related areas of Eldering and Pastoral Theology.


One of the most important biblical metaphors of spiritual leadership is “shepherd.” It is used repeatedly in the Old Testament (cf. Ezekiel 34) and is one of three terms used frequently in the New Testament to describe elders or pastors. It translates the Greek term, poimen (shepherd/pastor), which is used alongside presbuteros (elder), and episkopos (overseer/bishop). One passage, 1 Peter 5:1-4, uses all three terms to describe the same role.

When using the shepherd metaphor for leadership, authors usually follow one of two emphases, each respectful of the other. The first focuses on a leader’s pastoral identification with followers, even to the extent that the leader “smells like sheep” (Lynn Anderson). The second focuses on strong organizational leadership through a shephering posture, such as the volume by McCormick/Davenport. The first emphasize the shepherd’s gentleness, the second emphasize the shepherd’s strength and wisdom. The key words here are focus and emphasis, as the authors affirm the importance of the other dimensions, but develop one or the other more fully. Each, however, uses the biblical image as the foundation.

Resources Focused on Shepherd’s Identification With Followers

Resources Focused on Shepherd’s Organizational Leadership

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