A few weeks back, I watched American Sniper (it had been on my list for quite some time). In the movie, it is shown that when Navy SEAL Chris Kyle was growing up, his father educated him, “There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs.” He further explained that the sheep are the weak and docile ones who blind themselves from evil and don’t know how to protect themselves, the wolves are the predators who prey on the weak by using violence, and the sheepdogs are the protectors of the flock and the rare breed who confront the wolves. He tells his son that he had only one choice — to protect himself and his own — and gives his permission to do whatever is needed of him.
A key question that we can ask ourselves is: “Who am I right now and who am I becoming — a sheep, a wolf, or a sheepdog?”
If we want to become a true leader — at work, at home or in the community — we need to exude the qualities of a sheepdog. There’s no honor in becoming a sheep and no glory in becoming a wolf.
When we become a sheep, we let others take charge over us and our lives. We become a slave to the society we live in — we bend over backwards, we wag our tails and follow other people’s commands without questioning them. We let others exploit us and take our advantage. Instead of fighting the good fight, helping and supporting others, and living up to our full potential, we hide in the shadows and live a life that lacks respect, dignity, meaning and purpose.
On the flip side, becoming a wolf is about becoming aggressive and using people. It’s akin to becoming a dictator who rules by intimidation and doesn’t give a fuck about his people or their feelings. We lead by command and control. Instead of inspiring our followers to take the right actions and make good choices, we force them to behave in certain ways by threatening them.
If we want to become an exceptional leader, we need to live like a sheepdog. We need to lead by camaraderie, not intimidation. We need to provide the team members an environment that helps them grow and thrive. We need to remind them again and again of the overarching mission and vision so that we are able to galvanize them to fight for a common cause together. We need to communicate with them about the significance of their contribution and appreciate their efforts. Like sheepdogs, we need to protect our flock and help them feel secure, and in doing so protect the higher purpose that we all are working for.