Leaders, always seek the lost sheep
Preface: This is part of my 10 part series, where I deal with one principle per story. The entire series is based on my book titled, “10 Pragmatic Leadership Principles from the Bible”
The parable of the lost sheep, as told in Luke 15, records an incident when a group of Pharisees was quite upset with Jesus being close to non-Jewish people. They couldn’t stand the fact that he was eating with them in their houses. Jesus knew they needed to be taught a lesson and thus narrated the parable of the lost sheep.
He took the example of a shepherd who had 100 sheep in his flock. Sooner or later, he discovered there were only 99 of them, and one was missing. Jesus opined that a good shepherd would leave the 99 where they were and go in pursuit of the lost one. When he found the lost sheep, he joyfully carried it on his shoulder and walked home, where he threw a party to celebrate the good news.
Luke 15:5–6 — 5 And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.6 When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’
The crux of this allegory was to explain some important perspectives of Jesus on being there for those who are struggling and require help. Here are a few reasons why a leader should step out in search of the lost sheep.
1. Valuing those who need help
There is a widespread phenomenon in our world today. Though technological advancements have made our life easier, they have caused more damage to our personal lives and character. The number of cases of anxiety, depression, and suicide is on the rise. It appears as though everyone has two lives — one that is portrayed as normal and chirpy in the presence of others and the other dark side, which is obscure and secluded.
A typical team consists of an array of different characters. Each team member has their uniqueness. A leader should be in a position to understand the characteristics of each team member to know how to interact with them and react to certain situations. There is no ‘one size fits all’. It’s quite challenging to achieve a level of maturity to understand each and everyone but certainly not unattainable.
Proverbs 27:23 — Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds;
A leader should always be on the lookout for those who need help, both physically and emotionally. I once saw a picture that accurately depicts the difference between a boss and a leader. In the photo, the boss was sitting on a chair, instructing the workers, saying, “Do it”, whereas the leader stood among the workers saying, “Let’s do it”.
“A leader is part of the team and not above the team”
In the parable of the lost sheep, Jesus emphasizes the fact that among his flock, there were 99 well-placed, safe and secured sheep, but one chose to go out of the confines of safety for reasons unknown. The shepherd keeps his flock together because the wild animals normally target and pounce on those that are alone and scared. They cannot infiltrate a group of sheep since there would be much resistance. The leader knew the lost sheep needed the most help and went after that, even if it meant 99 had to be left behind without a leader.
Luke 19:10 — For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.
This is usually a matter of contention as to how a shepherd can leave the 99 sheep behind in search of just one. What if a wild animal abducts the 99 sheep while the leader is gone. Isn’t it a more substantial loss than only one? This is where the perspective of a leader differs from common thinking. A good leader chooses to go after the one that needs help more than the rest who do not.
a. The 99 are together — A herd of sheep is always together to wield off the wild animals who usually do not target a large group of animals, however vulnerable they may be. A group can fight together, fight back with combined strength, or when everything fails, cry aloud together to garner attention. There is a lot of confidence in the group, and they do not display fear, which predators can sense.
Ecclesiastes 4:9 — Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor
b. The 99 do not need assistance — They are in the process of achieving something, in the case of sheep — grazing. They do not need any guidance to do what they are trained to do. The sheep do not constantly look around to see if there is a shepherd around. They go about doing their business until they need the assistance of a shepherd. This is so relevant to the working pattern of our teams today. The leaders are not required to be around every minute of the day to watch over them. The team members are well off when left to themselves. They work together, solve minor challenges themselves, sort differences that are within their capacity to resolve. The leader typically comes into the picture when there is a need that cannot be resolved within the group. Leaders do not spend supervising team members. That is the most boring job ever. They spend time planning, researching, and strategizing.
“Leaders do not spend supervising team members. That is the most boring job ever. They spend time planning, researching, and strategizing”
2. Non-discriminating care
The Bible deals with two categories of people; those that love God and those that go against. In the old testament, it is the Israelites against everybody else, while in the new testament, it is about Jews against the gentiles. It is a common misconception that the Bible supports one side of the people and abhors the other.
Do you know that Jesus himself was the great-grandson of a Moabite woman named Ruth? God displayed his non-partisan love by adding a Moabite to the genealogy of Jesus.
Matthew 1:5–6 — 5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth,Obed the father of Jesse,6 and Jesse the father of King David.
The intention was to demonstrate that all humans are considered equal in the eyes of God. In this case, someone from the most detestable inheritance, like Moab, was given the honor of becoming the great grandmother of Jesus himself.
Similarly, a leader never discriminates among his flock; instead, he cares unconditionally for those in need. He goes after the lost one irrespective of whatever kind of sheep that may be. All the sheep have equal value in the eyes of the shepherd, or in other words, one sheep is as good as the 99.
“In the eyes of the shepherd, one sheep is as good as the 99”
3. Getting lost is human
From the shepherd’s perspective, it is common for the sheep to lose focus and sidetrack. It may be intentional or accidental. If you have ever noticed sheep graze, their heads are fixated on the grass, and their only focus is feeding on as much as possible. There is a likelihood they do not glance around and go out of their safety net as a result. The shepherd is cognizant of that. He regularly counts the sheep to make sure all sheep are within the safe zone.
Likewise, a leader needs to be prepared for a ‘lost sheep’ situation. ‘To err is human’. Your team members might intentionally or accidentally lose focus and end up getting lost. In more practical terms, they tend to get out of form and would require assistance to revive. A leader should not feel burdened rather grasp the situation at hand and swing into action.
Once in my career, I had a period of anxiety due to family circumstances. It started reflecting on my work. Unbeknownst to me, I reacted to decisions made in meetings in a manner that does not reflect my character. My boss, who had been observing my change of demeanor, spent a few hours talking to me and counseling. Towards the end of the session, I felt good and appreciated his effort to get me back on track.
Luke 15:8 — Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?
Overall, seeking the lost is a noble opportunity for leaders. Let’s make use of the moment to help, comfort, and raise those who deserve it. There is immense joy and satisfaction in seeing people getting back in the game.
Luke 15:31–32 — 31 My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.