The image of the shepherd is an extremely important biblical picture of a “leader” (Num. 27:17) because it implies not only an intensely personal relationship between God’s people and their leaders but a style or model of leadership exemplified by Jesus (cf. Mark 6:34). The very word “leadership” is developed from the shepherd imagery, where the shepherd goes before the flock and encounters the problems of the flock first. The shepherd does not issue commands in a pyramid fashion down to subordinates who carry out his wishes like a general or admiral who stays back out of range of the conflict; nor is a shepherd a whip-carrying organizer who drives the sheep into the pen or to a particular pasture. But the shepherd knows the setting, leads the sheep, and they follow him (cf. John 10:4). Sometimes “leaders” today are like the strangers of this text, whose voices are unknown to the sheep, and they wonder why there are problems in their organizations (cf. 10:5)!
—Gerald Borchert, John 1–11, The New American Commentary, 332