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A Healthy Organization Needs Both Leaders and Managers!

Malcolm WebberMalcolm Webber

This is the final part in a series on Spiritual Management
Part 1 – Managers and Leaders: Your Differences Are Your Strengths!
Part 2 – What Do Managers Actually Do?
Part 3 – The Skills of the Spiritual Manager
Part 4 – Leaders and Managers in the Bible

Someone said, “Action, without vision, is just passing the time. Vision, without action, is dreaming.” A healthy organization needs both leaders and managers!

We’ve done a deep-dive into spiritual management over the last month or so. Let’s now take a look at some practical implications of the God-given differences of leaders and managers. What does all of this mean for us now?

Recognize that both leadership and management are legitimate and necessary.

Management is about coping with complexity. Without good management, complex organizations – as today’s churches and Christian organizations have become – tend to degenerate into chaos in ways that threaten their very existence. Good management brings order and consistency to the overall flow of life and activity in the organization. Consequently, we must have good management!

Leadership, on the other hand, is about coping with change – or movement – and a church or Christian organization that is truly alive in the purposes of God will be constantly growing and maturing, and therefore changing.

Leaders establish the right and powerful vision of the future. Managers keep things going smoothly while we are getting there. Leaders need managers or else they will never get where they want to go, and managers need leaders or else they will often not know where to go. Therefore, one is not superior to the other.

Complement one another; don’t compete.

Today’s managers have been done a great disservice by contemporary leadership literature that implies or states any of the following:

  1. Leaders are cool, but managers are boring.
  2. Leadership is glamorous, mysterious and exotic, while management is mundane and tedious.
  3. Leadership is the province of a chosen charismatic few, while managers are “a dime-a-dozen.”
  4. Leadership changes the world, but management is rearranging the deck-chairs on the Titanic.
  5. Leadership is fundamentally “better” than management.

In reality, we must have both leaders and managers or else we will fail (1 Cor. 12:21-22). Moreover, it is not appropriate for one to exalt himself over the other since it was God who made each of us the way we are (1 Cor. 4:7). Managers and leaders need each other, and must learn to work together as a team, each contributing their unique perspective and strengths.

The real challenge is to combine strong leadership and strong management and allow each to balance the other. Otherwise, chaos will result in the loosely-structured organization commonly associated with the strong leader.

Realize that everyone needs both orientations to some degree.

While it is useful to differentiate between the roles of management and leadership, it is not helpful to view managers and leaders as entirely distinct types of people. Few people are only one or the other.

One’s individual style will actually be the result of a very complex interaction between one’s personality, culture, gender, age, family, relationships, giftings and education – to name only a few factors. You should understand your strengths and weaknesses. Then you should function primarily according to your strengths while working to strengthen your weaknesses.

There is much leadership in management (the visionary and inspirational part) and much management in leadership (the detail and implementation part). Thus, the more a leader works on his managerial skills the more effective he will become, and vice-versa. Additionally, the wise leader will surround himself with people whose strengths make up for his own weaknesses.

Seek out leader-managers to go between leaders and managers.

Essentially, there are three broad time frames: long range (vision), medium range (planning), and the day-to-day activities of the church or organization (oversight). An organization that only has visionary leaders (long range) and effective managers (day-to-day activities) will experience extra conflict.

There needs to be the leader-manager to bridge the gap: one who is comfortable in both worlds, and who can effectively relate and connect the long-range vision to the daily realities of the organization. Leaders provide vision. Leader-managers provide strategy. Managers provide tactical details.

In balancing the big picture and long-term vision with the demands of the present operations, the leader-manager inspires and directs people. By balancing flexibility and an ability to work with ambiguity on the one hand and managerial clarity on the other, the leader-manager is able to bring unity to the organization, building bridges between the visionaries and the administrators.

Use the particular situation of an organization as a context for leading and managing, determining which orientation is appropriate and which set of skills is needed at the time.

This situation can be difficult to assess because it can be a moving target!

One model of organizational development proposes five stages in the normal cycle of organizational life: form, storm, norm, perform and reform. These stages are generally true for any organization.

  1. The form stage is concerned with the mission, vision, goals and structure of the organization.
  2. The storm stage involves establishing individual roles and responsibilities, focusing on interpersonal relationships, communication, and team building.
  3. The norm stage is concerned with establishing processes, procedures, methods and standards.
  4. During the perform stage, the organization “gets down to business” and becomes good at what it is aiming to accomplish.
  5. The fifth stage of reform is necessary to continuously renew the organization and keep it on the cutting edge of the will of God. At this point, when the vision is fulfilled or changes, the process starts over, going from perform back to form.

To be effective, each stage of organizational development requires a different mix on the leader-manager continuum.

  1. At the form stage, when a project is beginning, a new strategy is created, or a new organization has begun, leadership is key. Vision must be formed and communicated, leadership teams must be formed, and people must be encouraged and inspired.
  2. At the storm stage, a combination of leadership and management is critical. There is a strong need to focus others on the mission, build networks, and apply interpersonal skills, especially around resolving conflict; but now the manager needs to emerge to put structure into place, begin to identify needed skills and experience and provide constant feedback.
  3. At the norm stage, management abilities move to the forefront. The organization needs the administration of planning, staffing and setting goals to fulfill the vision established at the first.
  4. At the perform stage, the manager must fully emerge to maintain and improve daily operations, with the appropriate systems and processes all in place.
  5. At the fifth stage of reform, the leader once again begins to emerge to institute necessary organizational change, and the cycle starts again.

Determine what God’s calling is for your life. Then, find that place and do it well.

God has given each of us the right gifts so we can fulfill His particular will for our lives. (1 Cor. 12:11-12)

God made you what you are: your personality, your gifts and talents, your experiences all contribute to the unique person that you are now. Be who you are, and do it well! That’s what counts. Leadership may appear on the surface to be more glamorous, but if it is not what God has called you to do, you are wasting precious time pursuing something that is not God’s will. “The pay is the same in the end!”

Apply what you know about leaders and managers to the confusion surrounding true “team leadership.”

In a team, we can have those who are strong in leadership characteristics and those who are strong in management characteristics and those in-between. As each person finds his appropriate place in the flow of things, the team will do well.

Consider, however, if the team makes all the visionary, “big-picture” decisions by unanimous agreement (if that is one’s conception of “team leadership”). If the team functions only by unanimous agreement, the organization will never go anywhere. The leaders will want to move ahead, but the typically more cautious managers will have total veto power.

Managers should allow leaders to make the leadership decisions, and leaders should allow managers to make management decisions. And those with a strong leadership-management mix in their abilities should clearly understand the nature of the particular decision before them and make that decision accordingly. Together it works very well, when each receives input from the other and genuine accountability is in place.

Don’t use the distinction between leaders and managers as an excuse for sloppiness or lack of diligence and responsibility on the part of the leader.

Unfortunately, it sometimes is. Some leaders do not even try to improve their management skills, leaving all the details and responsibilities for the daily life of the organization up to others.

Consequently, many leaders do not have adequate leadership skills or are very sloppy and careless in their lives and ministries. They may generate a lot of hype and excitement, but they never really accomplish anything or lead anyone anywhere.

The truth is that good leadership is just as disciplined a process as management is – perhaps more so – and it usually carries greater responsibility.

Recognize that the people make organizations successful – not systems.

A great leader comes along, understands his situation, receives a great vision from God and does “the stuff,” growing a successful church or ministry.

Managers may look at him, study his “system” and copy it, thinking that the power lies in the system. Then they attempt to imitate the procedure, which rarely works. The reason the leader was successful was not because of the particular system he used. It was because he was a leader who had the right vision from God for his time and place.

What we need is not successful systems, but leaders in the right places at the right times. Systems are subordinate to leadership. In a manner of speaking, a good leader could make any structure or system work. The form is not the issue; leadership is.

Be honest, but positive and gracious, about the unrealistic nature of certain projects.

For example, the manager may recognize that the organization’s resources are already stretched beyond their capacity and the new project simply cannot successfully be undertaken. Exasperated managers may respond negatively to their leaders: “We can’t do this. You’re asking too much.”

A better response is to say, “This new vision is wonderful. Let’s work together to accomplish it. However, due to our existing obligations, we simply don’t have the resources necessary (people, time, money, etc.) at this time to do it all. But we want to do it all, so please work with me so that we can either rearrange our existing commitments or somehow gain new resources, so that we can do it all.”

Such a response will usually be met with the favor of the leader, rather than frustration.

This positive approach will accomplish two additional things. First, it will help the leader better connect with the daily organizational realities that the manager lives with. Second, it will help the manager better connect with the future possibilities that the visionary leader lives with.

Remember, not everyone is a leader or manager. We still need “sailors” as well as “captains”!

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