For employees only: The difference between sheep and shepherds and Ewe

Most articles and Blogs written in trade magazines, social media and websites talk to owners, executives and management. If you are not one of those people, this column is for you.

Let me start by posing these questions: When walking into your store or office do you walk past the trash in the parking lot or stop and pick it up? Do you carry your business card in your pocket at all times and are constantly networking—no matter your role in the company? Do you read industry periodicals and keep yourself up to date on new products, trends, etc?

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If you’re not doing these things, ask yourself, “What if I did? Would it better me as an employee? Would it change my mentality of what I do?”

Next, ask yourself the following question: Are you engaged or disengaged in your job?

Do you know what you are supposed to be focused on? Do you know how your performance is measured? If the answer to any of these questions is no, ask yourself: “If I did, would it better me as an employee? Would it change my mentality of what I do?”

There are generally two types of people in this world: leaders and followers. If you’re not leading yourself and/or others, then you’re a follower. An appropriate analogy is a sheep vs. a shepherd. People who do what they’re told and don’t have to think for themselves can be considered sheep. They’re able to go through life doing very little and can always rely on someone else (i.e., a shepherd) to guide them.

It’s not hard to see why most people are sheep; it’s simply the path of least resistance. Sheep wait to be told what to do; shepherds think about what needs to be done and then do it. Sheep do their own job well while shepherds are committed to the team and the company doing well, so they tend to do more than the minimum. This entails pitching in when needed and going that extra mile without being asked.

Some of the most successful employees are the ones who are the most proactive when it comes to taking ownership and accountability over their own development. They show a deep pride and connection to the company and to their work. They don’t sit around waiting to be told what to do. They are team players and take on roles and responsibilities outside of their job description as long as those activities don’t distract them from the goals they have set with their manager. But most importantly, they aren’t sheep.

Here are seven characteristics of a leader:

  1. Leaders are self motivated and work effectively with little direction.

  2. Leaders have a positive attitude and create a healthy environment.

  3. Leaders have a strong work ethic; they set and achieve goals.

  4. Leaders are dependable and consistently follow through.

  5. Leaders are team oriented and make the most out of collaboration.

  6. Leaders are effective communicators and understand the benefits of clarity.

  7. Leaders are flexible and adapt in a meaningful way.

People who are the happiest act like shepherds. More importantly, these leaders are the ones generally promoted in an organization. Be the leader—the shepherd—in your own organization.

Brad Cotlar is the owner of Benchmarkinc Recruiting Services, a Wichita, Kan.-based company specializing in employee placement and executive head hunting in the floor covering, restoration and construction industries. For more information, visit or e-mail

Brad Cotlar