Have you ever felt like you were giving EVERYTHING you had as a leader and it just wasn't enough? Maybe it has been difficult to get buy-in from your team, or your spouse, or you kids.
Host, Nick Westbrook, describes his journey in leadership and what led him to the most engaging & effective leadership style he's ever experienced, Shepherd Leadership.
Listen in to hear Nick's story and learn about the framework for becoming a leader people will follow for LIFE, Shepherd Leadership.
Welcome to the Shepherd Leadership Podcast where we hope to encourage and equip leaders to help those entrusted to them thrive and to be a leader others follow for LIFE.
My name is Nick Westbrook & I’ve had people entrusted to my care professionally for over 20 years in careers from ministry, coaching football, & business development to now owning & leading a Chick-fil-A franchise with over 140 Team Members. Leading my business at Chick-fil-A is the most challenging, difficult, and rewarding thing I’ve ever done. The challenges can feel overwhelming, But the call to lead and being given the responsibility to steward so many people’s lives and experiences is an honor that I’m proud to shoulder. I’ve had more leadership failures than success, but from my greatest leadership failures I’ve learned the true art of fulfilling my calling to lead.
Thank you for joining our conversation where we will unpack the calling of leading as a shepherd and talk with other Shepherd Leaders about the impact they are making in their organizations. We post a new 30 minute episode on the first Friday of every month and sprinkle in some bonus content along the way.
We hope to make this time valuable for you & encourage you. This is the Shepherd Leadership Podcast.
In this first episode of the Shepherd Leadership podcast you are probably wondering WHAT is SHEPHERD LEADERSHIP? I hope to unpack the premise of Shepherd Leadership in this first episode and then take the rest of the year diving deeper on the principles of Shepherd Leadership, learning from other Shepherd Leaders who are making an impact in their field and providing you with resources you can share with your teams and leaders.
This podcast is for leaders. John Maxwell defines leadership simply as influence. So I guess really this podcast is for influencers. People who have other people entrusted to their care. People who are responsible for the well-being, success, & growth of others. That covers a lot of ground. I have had people entrusted to my care for over 20 years. I was always the loud one, the one that stepped out front to take responsibility. So from a young age I was tagged as a ‘leader’.
What I realized after some intense struggles in early leadership positions & in my marriage in my late 20’s was that I was leading all wrong, and that led to the principles of Shepherd Leadership.
My wife & I were the All-American couple. We tried to do everything right in our marriage & in our life. We met in college in a campus ministry, we dated and were married as soon as we graduated. I was a football coach and got a Head Coaching job very young at 24 years old. I was one of those intense coaches that worked relentlessly to win & build a winning team. I coached several years & then completely changed careers to help support my growing family more financially, taking a Sales role at a company in Atlanta. I was in that role for 10 years. In both roles though, something was consistent. I could never get enough of winning. I was never satisfied. I was a critical leader. I was inspirational & served my team & my organization but my efforts were solely devoted to wanting to WIN. Yet…Winning was never enough. I was never content. That lack of contentment spread to my leadership & eventually into my home, where, even though I didn’t express discontentment in words, I often did with actions and attitude. That strained my marriage & relationship with my wife. I now realize it strained my relationships as a leader and a coach.
Now my wife, Brooke, is the sweetest person God ever created & we are EXTREMELY DIFFERENT, complete opposites. I could be so critical & discontent with her and that led to us growing drastically apart. So far apart that we actually separated for 4 months! She didn’t want a divorce but she definitely didn’t want to continue living as we were. We had some friends who were faithful supporters of the Winshape Foundation. Winshape is a ministry of Chick-fil-A that has a marriage focus. I was not a part of the Chick-fil-A organization at the time but we were encouraged by these friends to attend a marriage intensive at Winshape. We attended that marriage intensive & God used it to save our marriage and set us on a path to thriving individually, and in our relationship. I moved back in the Sunday we got home from the intensive. It was on the way home I made the commitment that if this is the good that Chick-fil-A does by selling Chicken Sandwiches, then I was going to spend the rest of my life helping them sell chicken sandwiches.
During that 4 months we were separated a mentor of mine, Tim Sexton who leads a ministry called M46 for fathers, encouraged me to read Psalm 23 every day. I did. It was that Psalm that God used to change my heart and mind and prepare me for the work He would do at intensive. Tim encouraged me to read Psalm 23 and stop where I could not claim to be true what the Psalmist David was claiming to be true.
I read, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.” AND STOPPED. I could not say that was true. I was so discontent. I wanted so much more. I was discontent with everything in my life, and had no reason to be. I was succeeding at so many things! In many ways my life what everything that I had prayed for some 5 years earlier! I read those 6 verses every day for 4 months. Now 10 years later I read them every week.
What I learned about Psalm 23 is that it’s not what I thought it was growing up in church and Sunday school. Psalm 23 isn’t a poem meant to be tacked onto the back of a funeral eulogy. It’s not something to be memorized so we can chant it together when we are in trouble. Psalm 23 was David’s proclamation that God taught him how to be the leader & King he needed to be by leading David like as a shepherd does his flock. The entire poem is an illustration of how a good shepherd cares for those entrusted to them.
I had not followed my shepherd. I looked everywhere for contentment, everywhere but to the one the bible calls The Good Shepherd. If I’m honest I really used God as decoration in my life to make me look good. I loved God and was grateful for and understanding of His grace in my life, but I didn’t follow Him as a good Shepherd. I probably used God to help me thrive more than I wanted to be used by Him. The same way I looked for other relationships to help me thrive. As a young coach my team winning was probably more about me than about the team. My sales career was more about me and less about my organization, my marriage and family was more about my satisfaction with life than it was them thriving. That’s difficult to say but if I’m being completely transparent it was an underlying truth. I wanted those around me to thrive, I loved them, but my prime motivation was probably more self-interested. I wanted my team to win to make me look like a great coach. I wanted my players to get into D1 schools so I had the image of being a developer of great talent. I wanted to have a great marriage because I wanted to look like a great husband. I built a great sales team because I wanted to look like a great leader.
I was actually unsatisfied with myself and sought validation in everything I inserted myself in.
How you follow will shape how you lead. I did not follow my shepherd well, & I didn’t lead well.
After reconciling with Brooke I took a long, hard look at myself as a leader, as a husband, a father, and as a professional. I knew God had gifted me to lead, He’d given me the passion and a purpose to make a difference in the lives of other people. I wanted others to discover the passion of purpose that the Lord had opened my eyes & heart to; That I could be fully committed to giving myself to others so that they would thrive and flourish.
As I began to attempt to live out Psalm 23 in my life and leadership, I became enamored with this image that is continually used in the Bible to portray leaders, the Shepherd. Jesus is referred to as the Good Shepherd. It was a very natural profession in that time, but almost every leader God used in the old Testament began or spent some time as a shepherd. Continually referenced in scripture is this image of shepherds in relation to their flock. I began to study shepherds. I bought countless books on shepherds and even some on leading like a shepherds. I began to see the incredible parallel that God uses with leaders and shepherds with how they did their jobs and what they are responsible for, how they have to navigate their relationship with their flock. Most everything I read, however was geared towards pastors. I knew I wasn’t called to be a pastor, but yet I resonated with image of leading as a shepherd.
Then I was reading in Ephesians one day and was struck with what I read. In Ephesians 4, Paul is encouraging the church in Ephesus that after Christ ascended, he left his followers with gifts distributed through individuals to help equip others, filling in the gap from Him returning to heaven. This is how it reads in Ephesians 4
“But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift…and He gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the SHEPHERDS, and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ.”
That is the English Standard Version of the bible. It uses the word ‘shepherds’. Some versions use the word ‘pastors’. Now this word for shepherd is where we get the term pastor, but I think the ESV got it right here. There was no Senior pastor of the first Baptist church of Ephesus. The church leadership, and the 1st century church, looked much different than it does now. And he lists several other gifts here that would be considered the job description of what many preachers and pastors do now. This term, shepherds, is where you and I - those that have individuals, families, teams, groups, and organizations entrusted to us – this is where we find ourselves in God’s plan!
We are to lead those entrusted to us in a manner that looks different than the world. If we are believers then our marriages should look different, our fatherhood and motherhood should look different, how we lead our teams and organizations should look different. It should be in step with how God modeled good leadership for David, what taught him how to be the Shepherd King of Israel. We are to be Shepherd Leaders in our organizations.
Much has been made of the term Servant Leadership. While I am all in on servant leadership, I believe the term in somewhat incomplete. We, as leaders, are in place to serve those entrusted to us, undoubtedly. They are not in place to serve us. What gets misunderstood and sometimes misrepresented in the term is what I see in so many young leaders with great intentions and what burnt-out leaders eventually experience. Servant leadership is a part of what we do, but it cannot be everything we are. We must shepherd those entrusted to us. You see a servant leader can serve and serve and serve and leave those entrusted to them misguided because they were never shepherded. But a shepherd leader cannot shepherd those entrusted to them and not serve them. Serving those entrusted to them is at the heart of every Shepherd Leader, but the way the leader serves them best, is by shepherding them.
Watch how the model plays out in Psalm 23. For maybe the first time, listen to this poem King David wrote to his Shepherd and how it models strong leadership, not as a eulogy or a thrown up prayer for protection.
“The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”
He makes me lie down in green pastures
He leads me beside still waters
He restores my soul
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for you are with me
Your rod and your staff they comfort me
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
You anoint my head with oil, My cup overflows
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
God has not entrusted others to your care so that you will thrive and that you will be honored
God has entrusted others to your care so that THEY would thrive and that HE would be honored.
This is where you as a leader will find your greatest joy, in giving your very best to those entrusted to you so that they thrive and can be at their very best.
I am called to shepherd my wife and daughters in a way that THEY thrive and that through our relationship God is honored.
I am called to shepherd my team at Chick-fil-A in a way so that they thrive, not just me thrive as the owner of the business. I only get to thrive if THEY thrive. If the shepherd returns a flock to the owner that is sick, diseased, thin in numbers from losing several of them to predators, what will happen to the shepherd? Exactly! He’s DONE! It is a matter of stewardship! What we want as shepherd leaders is for God to look at what we have done with those entrusted to us and say, you have been entrusted with little, I will put you in charge of much – enter into the joy of your Master.
There are 4 principles that every good Shepherd Leader must practice to effectively lead those entrusted to them so that they thrive.
The leader must KNOW, GUIDE, PROTECT, & PROVIDE for those entrusted to them. We wont go into these today, we are just laying the groundwork for our conversation.
It’s when I began to live out these leadership principles that I began to see real impact from my own leadership and influence. I began to see impact as a leader professionally and personally at home. These principles were the catalyst for what has become a way of living for me.
In this podcast we will unpack the 4 principles of how to be an effective Shepherd Leader and meet modern-day Shepherd Leaders that are crushing it and making a significant impact in their field.
These are not just the practices of pastors. These practices will help any leader achieve what he or she got into leadership to do in the first place, accepting the responsibility of guiding those entrusted to them & the organization entrusted to them, THRIVE. Whether you are a t-ball coach or CEO, a father or mother, a big brother or board member – you can use these universal truths to help others thrive, to be a leader people follow for life, and fulfil your calling to lead.
These principles are not just for faith driven leaders. You don’t have to be a person of faith for this style of leadership to be impactful in your organization. The image of a shepherd is not inherently a faith driven one. Shepherding was a business when it was used as an image for leadership in the bible! These principles are useful and impactful for ALL leaders in ANY industry.
We teach these principles with my leaders at my Chick-fil-A restaurant to create a high impact organization. These principles invigorate and encourage our leaders. These principles do not take a lot of talent or skill. Every leader will be stronger in one area than another, but each of these is really a choice you make as a leader, a principled driven approach for ensuring that you are doing what you are called to do, not getting distracted by things that will derail your influence. Until next time, be a leader people will follow for LIFE - shepherd well my friends.