The shepherd and the executive


A shepherd was looking after his sheep on the side of a deserted road. Suddenly a brand-new Ferrari screeches to a halt. The driver, a high-powered executive, dressed in a designer suit, tie, shoes, sunglasses, a Panerai wristwatch, gets out and asks the shepherd, ‘If I can tell you how many sheep you have, will you give me one of them?’

The shepherd looks at the young man and replies, ‘Okay.’ The young man parks the car, opens his laptop, connects to a satellite feed, scans the ground, and opens a database of 60 excel tables filled with algorithms and pivot tables. He then looked at the shepherd and said, “You have exactly 1,586 sheep.” The shepherd was fascinated. He says: “That’s correct, you can have your choicest sheep from the herd.”

The young executive takes the cutest animal he likes from the flock and puts it in the back of his Ferrari. The shepherd looks at him and asks, ‘If I guess your profession, will you return my animal to me?’ The young man laughed and answered, ‘Yes, why not?’ The shepherd says, ‘You are an executive, most likely with finance, and you must be an auditor.’ ‘How did you know?’ asks the young man.

‘Very simple,’ answers the shepherd. “First, you came here without being wanted. Secondly, you charged me a fee to tell me something I already knew. Thirdly, you don’t understand anything about my business. Now can I have my DOG back?“

This is an old story credited to anonymity, and I have tweaked it a little bit. No, I have nothing against auditors or people in finance, and their work is essential in any business. But the story illustrates the importance of leaders in understanding digital tools and how they are used for the nature of their business. There is no turning back. The pandemic has accelerated the digital transformation in every area of business and even professions in ways unimaginable.

I’m in the area of leadership training. While we talked about the need to prepare future-fit and ready leaders, there was a time when all we needed to cover were the following areas:

Development of cognitive skills. This involves critical thinking, planning ways of working. Communications to achieve better flexibility.

Development of interpersonal skills. Mobilizing systems, developing relationships, teamwork, effectiveness

Development of self-leadership skills. This covers self-awareness, entrepreneurship goals, emotional intelligence.

Now here is something that many are awakening to. We are now realizing that we need to train our leaders on their digital skills. Digital fluency, developing digital literacy, digital collaboration, software use, and development of programming literacy, and even data literacy, understanding digital systems.

In pre-COVID days, I was swamped with many invitations to do training in the area of change management. My job was to persuade and convince leaders to embrace changes, primarily focusing on digital transformation. It was very hard, the resistance was high, and refusal to change was evident. And then an effective unplanned event happened. It’s called CORONAVIRUS. More powerful than all the seminars and training in the world, COVID-19 is the most effective CTO ever (chief technology officer), plunging everybody into the digital economy.

There is a principle that emerges from this experience. We do not change even when we see the LIGHT – seminars and platitudes offer only illumination and light. We change only when we feel the HEAT. And then everybody feels the HEAT OF COVID-19.  Nothing is hotter than the threat of instant business obliteration and career death if one does not embrace digital technology. Leaders today should be equipped in their:

• digital literacy

• digital learning

• digital ethics

Many companies claim that they are technology companies so they can have higher valuations. A lot of changes are taking place and every kind of change is uncomfortable. But only through change can we achieve growth.

GROWTH IS NEVER COMFORTABLE BECAUSE IT BRINGS YOU TO A PLACE WHERE YOU HAVE NEVER BEEN. I repeatedly say in my webinars: “The place where we are now, the status quo, and the place that is accelerated by this pandemic – will create a gap. That gap will be called irrelevance.”

With all these digital tools at our disposal, the end goal is still to serve the customers, meet their needs, and solve their problems. If this is forgotten and neglected, then the leader might well not be able to tell a dog from sheep.



(Francis Kong’s highly acclaimed Level Up Leadership Master Class online will have its final run for the year from Nov. 17 to 19. For inquiries and reservations, contact April at +63928-559-1798 or and for more information, visit www.levelupleadership.ph)


  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with