Shepherd, Steward, Saint or Angel: What Kind of Leader Are You?

If you’re the owner of a transformational business, you are a leader. At the very least, you know that the choices and decisions you make affect your business, your clients and students, and your own life, in a number of ways.

I’ve been thinking a lot about leadership lately, because every action we take leads somewhere — it has consequences. Each step we take forms the path beneath our feet, and determines to some extent the next step, and the next. The paths we make by walking change us, and change the environment around us.

Each time you choose to speak from your heart, rather than say what you think someone else wants to hear, you act as a leader. Each time you consider deeply the needs of your clients, and devise creative solutions through the magic of your imagination, intention, experience and engagement, you map uncharted territory.

Conscious leadership requires us to take responsibility for our actions, and to make choices that benefit the whole ecology of which we are a part.

And yet, there are many different styles of conscious leadership.

Here are four of the many forms of leadership that are available to us: The shepherd; the steward; the saint; and the angel.

Shepherds tend to their flock. They know each of their sheep by name. They know where the best pastures are, and the safest means of getting there. They stay close to their flock, keep them together and lead them from one pasture to the next, sometimes walking in front of them, other times herding them from behind.

Good shepherds rescue sheep that have become stuck in a crevasse or wandered away from the flock. They make sure their sheep are watered, fed, and returned safely to their fold at night. They keep watch and protect their flock from wolves and other predators. They are tireless, caring, responsible leaders, subject to the stresses of wind and weather, predators and wild, rugged landscapes. Leadership in shepherd mode can be a lonely and exhausting business.

The steward is a leader who considers the people and places in her care a sacred trust. A good steward serves as a trustee to his or her master. The master may be a person, or an organization, agency or even a country. Or the steward might be accountable to Nature, or God or to a vision of possibility.

The steward’s care might be for children and a family; or a place, a business, an organization or a creative gift, such as artistic genius or a flair for cooking. The steward-leader pays close attention to the needs of what’s been entrusted to her, and shapes her leadership to meet those needs.

The saint leads almost as an afterthought. Saints are committed first and foremost to their God or Goddess, or to an inner Truth, which guides them. Some saints — Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Socrates, the Dalai Lama — are called to serve humanity. Others — Teresa of Avila, Mirabai — are ecstatically devoted to their Divine Source; their influence is a function of their presence and their written words, rather than of a direct engagement with the world. Saints lead primarily by example.

And then there are angels or Devas, who lead by carrying a vision or blueprint for a particular creation. They hold a space in which that creation can gestate safely, be born and grow into maturity. Examples of non-physical angel-leaders are the souls of countries — the Deva of the United States; the Deva of Australia — and the overlighting Devas of the natural world . . . the souls of mountains, trees, fire, water, the Earth itself.

In our human world, angel-leaders are those who carry a vision for a particular creation — a painting or a book; a nation or an NGO. Angel-leaders create a space in which that vision can unfold. Good teachers are angels, in this tradition of leadership — they hold a vision of who their students can be, and make a safe space for them to grow into their potential. Good mothers and fathers, artists, entrepreneurs and, yes, politicians, are angel-leaders too. Angel-leaders don’t impose an ideology or agenda. Rather, they lead by being bearers of a vision, and holders of the space for its unfolding.

In reality, of course, we all draw on each of these forms of leadership, and many more.

So let’s talk.

What kind of leader are you, in your life and in your business?

And what forms of leadership do you respond to most readily? What kinds of leadership help you to be most creative? Most alive, and most fully your own unfolding self?

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