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Dissertation Abstract

The Development of Shepherd Leadership Theory and the Validation of the Shepherd Leadership Inventory (SLI)

James E. Swalm Jr.
December 2009

Because shepherding is one of the oldest occupations of humanity, the metaphor of the shepherd as leader dates back thousands of years and is a universal image. Therefore, the shepherd-leader metaphor is an ideal vehicle through which to study leadership. The purpose of this study was to (a) develop the theory of shepherd leadership by operationalizing shepherd leadership into a behavioral construct and (b) create a validated inventory through which to further the study of shepherd leadership and the practical application of shepherd-leadership principles to the practice of leadership. The initial development of shepherd-leadership theory began with a significant literature review of the shepherd-leader metaphor contained in the Hebrew Scriptures including the Old and New Testaments. This process continued with a literature review of shepherd leadership in the writings of modern authors both scholarly and popular. The literature review determined shepherd leaders are leaders who insure the well-being of their followers. This leadership incorporates three primary behaviors including guiding, providing, and protecting. The resulting theory of shepherd leadership suggests shepherd leaders are leaders who lead to insure the well-being of their followers through the behaviors of guiding, providing, and protecting. This creates the perception that a shepherd leader is a leader who performs certain behavioral tasks associated with shepherd leadership. However, this study revealed shepherd leadership is primarly about being, not doing. Shepherd leaders perform certain behavioral tasks because they are shepherd leaders; they are not shepherd leaders because they perform these behavioral tasks. The tasks demonstrate a leader is a shepherd leader. The tasks do not make a person into a shepherd leader. Therefore, shepherd leadership primarily is about who a leader is, not what a leader does. From the shepherd-leadership theory developed through the literature review, the Shepherd Leadership Inventory (SLI) was developed, incorporating 26 items to assess the three primary shepherd leader behaviors of guiding, providing, and protecting. These three shepherd leader behaviors collectively represent the primary shepherd leader behavior of insuring the well-being of followers. The SLI was analyzed through the use of principal component factor analysis and determined to be both valid and reliable.