To a certain extent, we are all leaders.
The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Every single one of you is a shepherd and every single one of you is responsible for his flock.”
What catches the eye at first is “every single one of you”. That includes me and you, kings and presidents, men and women, husbands and wives, employers and employees. It also includes the extrovert and the introvert, the tough and the soft, the sensitive and the assertive.
Leadership is not titles. Certainly not an honor. But a responsibility that we are accountable for and will be questioned about. Whether we like it or not, this responsibility has already been given to us. Actually, we are all leaders by default.
The shepherd metaphor might not be relevant for our time. It simply means we are responsible for our circle of influence. Parents are responsible for their kids, the children for their parents, the employer to the employees, the employees for the business…
To understand the universal job of a leader, we just have to think about the role of a shepherd. In his book “The Leadership of Muhammad”, John Adair mentions the 3 functions of a shepherd:
- Guide: the shepherd shows the direction to a better destination- where the flock can find pastures. He works tirelessly for the benefit of the flock and shares the danger of the road with it.
- Protect: the shepherd knows the dangers and protects the animals from hurting themselves or being hurt.
- Take care: the shepherd knows the temperament of each animal and adapts his attitude accordingly. He takes care of the individual needs of his flock.
There are extensive teachings we can extract from the metaphor of the shepherd. The leader put great effort to protect his people, benefits them, and takes care of their individual needs. The leader serves those whom he or she leads.
Leaders go from serving others to being served. It all depends on which extent we want to fulfill our responsibility. Robert K. Greenleaf mentioned this difference in his essay ‘The Servant as Leader’ when he said:
“The servant-leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from one who is leader first, perhaps because of the need to assuage an unusual power drive or to acquire material possessions…The leader-first and the servant-first are two extreme types. Between them there are shadings and blends that are part of the infinite variety of human nature.”
It’s amazing what human beings can accomplish when they don’t have a choice. The responsibility of leading has already been given to us. It’s not in our hands. So why not embarking on this journey of becoming the best leader we are capable of becoming?