catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 11, Num 8 :: 2012.04.13 — 2012.04.26


Bad shepherd

Dear sheep,

You might wonder what in the world I’m doing editing an issue of catapult about leadership.   I mean, really — don’t pretend you haven’t noticed.  In fact, I may have even told you flat out: I’m not a very good leader.  I can hand out tasks (sometimes) and get people excited about ideas (some days), but too often I fail to empower you, encourage your sense of ownership, follow through on my own promises or help you understand why the things we do together matter.  But, for better or for worse, I find myself in a position of leadership — a shepherd to sheep.

Let me give you a little background on my life as a bad leader.  I was born at the front of the line, the first of four kids, and learned early on how to boss my siblings around.  Strategies for getting my way sometimes included guilt manipulation, pouting, yelling and lying.  I wasn’t what you would call “a bad kid” — just a normal, strong-willed firstborn acting in the ways that many of us who fit that description naturally act.  Though in retrospect, I can even see that I knew how to bend nature to my advantage, convincing my siblings that our pecking order was “just the way things are” (and my siblings can attest to the myriad injustices they suffered under my reign as the Oldest Child).

Fast forward to high school.  I was artistic, athletic, bright and confident, capable of crossing social boundaries, though most at home with the theatre kids and, interestingly, my teachers.  I signed up for lots of stuff and almost always had one of the longest lists of photos in the yearbook index.  However, sometime around my senior year or so, I realized that my tendency to be a judgmental perfectionist had pushed nearly all of my friends away, save my longsuffering boyfriend whom I (no surprise) occasionally manipulated in similar ways to my siblings.  Somewhere along the way, I realized that I could passive aggressively lead my way into, for example, having the perfect student newspaper, but how much fun would it be to hang out with me, myself and the paper that I had, in fact, edited, so there wasn’t really anything left to read?  Thus began my self-taught program of Loosening Up.  My first assignment was to stop being such a nag about my friends’ smoking habits.

The question I’m still working to answer, yea these 15 years later, is, “Who am I, if I’m not a firstborn control-enthusiast?”  I’ve tried to be a sheep, but that disguise never lasts very long.  I’ve tried to turn the volume down on the voice of judging others, but the voice of judging myself is still at eleven.  I’ve tried to be a good shepherd, but I’m no Jesus.  I’m not even Judas.  More like Peter, desperately trying to figure out how to fulfill the impossible, conflicting expectations of everyone around him.  More like Moses, trying to convince a flaming shrub of his unsuitability for the task at hand.

You see, in seeking to surrender the perfectionism, the know-it-all-ness, the judgment, the control, all I’ve managed to become is a reluctant shepherd, wishing her life could be as carefree as a sheep, wondering with longing how all of those other shepherds manage to keep their flocks so shipshape and satisfied.  Of course, some of them use methods I consider deplorable, including fear of punishment, but I haven’t yet discovered how to make a go of my dream organization, Jolly Shepherds and Sheep United for a Better World (or JSaSUfaBW for short).  Maybe shepherding is just bound to be a lonely occupation.

When I’m old and gray and I need that crook for more than just looks, maybe I’ll finally be the leader who’s vulnerable, discerning and inspiring in all the right ways — a prophetic shepherd if ever there was one, inviting sheep to realize their full potential in glorious ways.  Maybe I’ll finally outgrow both the petulant child and the uncertain young adult.  In the meantime, I remain humbly and apologetically yours,


your comments

comments powered by Disqus